P V Narasimha Rao was one of the greatest scholars and a leader par excellence. A legendary figure, he changed the course of entire nation on his own by his foresightedness, vision and dedication to the country. A towering personality of the 20th century India, he was the father of reforms and undoubtedly, one of the best Prime Ministers of the country. For a man of that stature, his death is a story of unparalleled humiliation, insult and ignominy which will not only bring tears to your eyes, but make your blood boil. He was insulted by Sonia Gandhi as she did not want his legacy to become larger than ‘the dynasty’.
P.V.Narasimha Rao breathed his last on 23 December 2004 after suffering a cardiac arrest. Clad in a white dhoti, golden silk Kurta and an angavastram over his shoulders, the body of the former Prime Minister was an image of peace and serenity. His eight sons had gathered around him. Soon, people started arriving to pay their tributes. Prabhakar, the youngest son of Rao, had planned the cremation to be held in Delhi as it was Rao’s “karmabhoomi”, a place where he lived more than 3 decades serving as union minister in various ministries and as the Prime Minister of India. However, fate had some other cruel plans !
Among the first few to arrive was Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who told Rao’s youngest son Prabhakar that the cremation cannot be held in Delhi and suggested him to take the body to Hyderabad. Next came Ghulam Nabi Aazad, who too suggested that the body is taken to Hyderabad for cremation. At around 6.30 pm, Sonia Gandhi arrived with PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. The PM asked Prabhakar regarding cremation, and the latter expressed his desire of cremating Narasimha Rao in New Delhi. Prabhakar requested Dr Manmohan Singh to convince his cabinet members to let cremation happen in Delhi. Sonia Gandhi who was standing beside, did not speak a word. Manmohan Singh, as usual, just nodded. When PM Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi left, Prabhakar Rao was under “immense pressure” from all senior ministers and Congress leaders to take the body to Hyderabad for cremation which he finally had to agree.
The next day, 24 December 2004, when the body was being taken from his home to the airport, his son expressed the desire that his body be taken via 24, Akbar Road (the headquarter of Congress party) and kept there for a moment in tribute to the fact that PV Narasimha Rao had devoted his whole life to Congress party. However, the gate of the INC headquarters was shut and Rao’s son was sternly said that the gate will not open, much to the disbelief of Prabhakar. In past, every senior Congress leader’s body had been taken to the headquarter where Congress workers could pay tribute.
The insult and humiliation did not end here. The greatest insult to PV was yet to come. After his funeral pyre was lit, no one stayed at the cremation ground. Congress leaders of Andhra Pradesh were hard to be seen. His half-burnt body was left lying on the pyre while the flames died down. There was none to care to ensure that the body was completely reduced to ashes. Stray dogs were pulling and eating his half-burned body. Only after some passers-by spotted that his half burnt body was lying there did they inform officials in Hyderabad, who came and ensured complete cremation.
Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister when all these happened. PV Narasimha Rao was not only the guru of Dr Singh but also the one who launched him to fame. When MMS couldn’t tolerate the pressure of politics after his budget, it was PV who took all political blame and shielded the ‘economist’ Dr Singh. The political pressure on the finance minister post the liberalisation budget of 1991 was so immense that Manmohan Singh was completely broken. Thrice did he offer his resignation letter, but PV assured Dr Singh that as the Prime Minister, he will take every attack. Narasimha Rao gave full protection, support and independence to Manmohan Singh to implement all the reforms without any hesitation. Such was the bonding between PV and Dr Singh during the former’s tenure as the Prime Minister (1991-96).
While PV Narasimha Rao, as the Prime Minister, risked everything to give unflinching and unconditional support to Dr Manmohan Singh, the latter remained silent when PV faced such a humiliation even in his death. As the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh did not even fulfil the wish of Rao’s son that his father be cremated in Delhi. When Prabhakar implored Dr Singh to let cremation take place in Delhi, he remained silent. The demands of Rao’s family that a memorial for PV be built in Delhi was also not considered by the PM Manmohan Singh and Congress party. Why was Manmohan Singh, the PM of India, so helpless for someone who was mentor, guru and launched him to fame?
Can there be a more painful, humiliating end to the life of a legend? He faced such a terrible end even after his death because he didn’t tow the line of the Gandhi family, and took independent decisions to make a prosperous India. There has never been a bigger insult and shameful treatment of a former Prime Minister in the history of India. The Congress party, at the directions of Sonia Gandhi, disowned him and did not let a memorial come in Delhi. It took 11 years and a Narendra Modi to finally build a memorial to one of the greatest Prime Ministers in the history of India.