Monday, December 5, 2022

Remembering Narasimha Rao: The PM who turned silence into a shrewd political strategy

editorial 2 1

P V Narsimha Rao was the Prime Minister who led India through one of the most turbulent times. And he led the country through that turbulence with sagacity, mature wisdom, sharp acumen and a lot of artful silence.

Known for his scholastic intellect as well as mastery of several languages, he had to face a series of political revolts, treachery as well as political opposition. Many charges of corruption and inaction too were hurled at him. But he crossed all those hurdles ably with his trademark silence.

His tenure saw India through some momentous and historical events. And it was good that he led the country through those difficult times remarkably well. He was the original architect of economic reforms that were unveiled by his finance minister Manmohan Singh, who is now largely credited with harbingering a new economic era in the country.

He gave Manmohan Singh a long rope to carry out the economic reforms and also shielded him from political criticism that was bound to come his way.

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Narsimha Rao with Vajpayee
P V Narsimha Rao with Vajpayee: Formidable foes with respect for each other

However, the biggest contribution of Narsimha Rao must be the silent end of terrorism in Punjab. When he took over as the Prime Minister Punjab was virtually in flames. There were reports of people killed in terrorist attacks almost everyday. Terrorism and blood had become a part of daily life in Punjab and an ordinary must-carry single column news item for every newspaper published elsewhere in the country.

He did not do anything dramatic in Punjab. Just gave K P S Gill, the DGP of Punjab, freedom to work and full backing. He also did everything possible to boost the morale of Punjab police.

Terrorism vanished from Punjab. Not dramatically, but in a slow and calibrated manner. For years, no one could even realise that India had gotten rid of one of the most serious and dangerous threats to the integrity and unity India. And that too with so much of silence.

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It was Narsimha Rao who is credited with showing political sagacity and patriotism on issues of national importance. When it came to foreign affairs, he was not loathe to seeking help of opposition leaders for protecting Indian interests.

He defeated Pakistan’s attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue by tabling a resolution in UNHRC in his own style. He sent an Indian delegation that was led by none else than his political opponent Atal Bihari Vajpayee. And to neutralise Pakistan’s attempts to bring up Muslim persecution charge on Kashmir debates, he also filled up the delegation with Muslim leaders like Salman Khurshid, E Ahmad, Farooq Abdullah and Hamid Ansari.

Manmohan Singh too was deployed in diplomatic tussle, especially because he commanded a lot of respect in the UN and US.

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He was a Prime Minister who led the country successfully in his times and brought about momentous changes in diplomacy, foreign affairs, home affairs as well as economic front.

However, he also had to face a lot of flak for his silence when charges of corruption were being thrown at him by Harshad Mehta. And of course for Babri Masjid demolition. He is also criticised for not having done enough to prevent Babri Masjid’s demolition.

However, history will largely evaluate him for the economic reforms that he ushered in and for the end of terrorism in Punjab. And for any of these two contributions he richly deserves Bharat Ratna as demanded by KCR. India and the government of the day would do well to confer Bharat Ratna on him posthumously.

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