The man behind economic reforms of 1991 was not Manmohan Singh!!! Are we doing an injustice by forgetting P V Narasimha Rao?

Amidst all the blame games and propaganda driven state, Indian political sphere has a few legacies that never got the respect they truly deserved. It is a sad fact that controversies and agendas have overshadowed actions of real concern by political figures who genuinely worked with progressive ideals. One among them, who has often been referred to as the Father of Economic Reforms, is P V Narasimha Rao.

Former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajapayee and Man Mohan Singh sustained the economic policies pioneered by this man named P V Narasimha Rao. This man who became the first non-Hindi speaking Prime Minister of India in 1991 reversed what were known to be the ‘socialist’ policies of the Rajeev Gandhi government, initiating a series of reforms that were followed by next two governments as well. Economic liberalization and industrial licensing reforms are amongst the major steps taken by the P V Rao government.

In fact, former President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam called P V Rao a ‘Patriotic Stateman’, owing to his ideals that were clearly national than political. Dr. Kalam also claimed that end of PV Rao government posed an obstacle to the execution of Nuclear test in 1996, which was only carried out later during Vajapayee’s term. This was a prominent factor, as it was P V Rao who pioneered nuclear ventures in India. His move towards strengthening National Nuclear Security and ballistic missiles program led towards the execution of Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998. He was also the first Prime Minister to provide freedom to the military to fight terrorism. It was his movies that eliminated terrorism from the state of Punjab. PV Rao was the first Prime Minister who introduced TADA – India’s first anti-terrorism legislation. He also commanded the Indian military to eliminate external infiltrators.

BJP became a prominent anti-Congress entity during P V Rao’s rule. This man was the brave leader who took a deviation from Nehru’s Mixed Economy model and made the Indian economy market oriented. This paved way for foreign direct investments, and during his term – i.e. 1991-1996, FDI in India increased from USD 132 million to USD 5.3 billion. This was facilitated further by industrial licensing reforms, wherein only 18 industries required licensing in India. This rationalized industrial regulation and sped up corporate development in India during the end of 20th century.

Strategic moves such as maintaining a safe distance from China and crisis management moves after the Bombay blasts of 1993 were among the other prominent factors of PV Rao government. He is also known as ‘Chanakya’ of Indian administration owing to his Rajniti, Rannniti and Lokniti – the three prominent spheres where he excelled in management. Crises such as Babri Mosque incident, Separatists movements in Punjab and Kashmir, and Latur earthquakes did indeed pose threats to PV Rao’s efficient governance; and successfully overshadowed his achievements as a Prime Minister. It was under his governance that former Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh became recognised as a prominent economist of India, and led the government eventually. However, he and his government shrewdly made sure that no credit was given to PV Rao, regardless of the steps taken by the government in the direction guided by the very man.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out on PV Rao’s 95th birth anniversary on July 28th 2016 stating that his leadership was a vital and notable phase of Indian administration. Politically, economically, industrially, strategically and military wise- PV Narasimha Rao set the standards of quality administration. His only setback was that he never advertised himself well, which has resulted in ignorance amongst the masses regarding his efficiency. His ideals during the crucial time laid a strong foundation for India’s progress, and have yielded excellent results. Hopefully we shall recollect his progressive ideas and give him the respect he deserves – which is more than just a mention in the list of Prime Ministers of India.

Ashwini Jain