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P. V. Narasimha Rao

Sri. Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao (Telugu: పాములపర్తి వెంకట నరసింహరావు) (born on 28th June, 1921 – 23rd December, 2004) who was commonly known as P. V. Narasimha Rao, served as the 9th Prime Minister of the Republic of India from 1991 to 1995 and leader of the Congress (I) Party. He was an Indian lawyer, politician and freedom fighter. He led one of the most important administrations in India’s modern history, overseeing a major economic transformation and several incidents affecting national security. Rao accelerated the dismantling of the Licence Raj. Rao, also called the “Father of Indian Economic Reforms”, is best remembered for launching India’s free market reforms that rescued the almost bankrupt nation from economic collapse. He was also commonly referred to as the “Chanakya” of modern India for his ability to steer tough economic and political legislation through the parliament at a time when he headed a minority government.

Early life:

P.V. Narasimha Rao was born on 28th June, 1921 to Sri. P. Ranga Rao and Smt. Rukminiamma in agrarian Niyogi Brahmin family. He was born in Laknepally village of Warrangal district in Andhra Pradesh, but was shifted to Vangara village in Karimnagar district at the age of 3. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Arts from Osmania University and master’s degree in law from Fergussan College from University of Mumbai (now under University of Pune). Though his mother tongue was Telugu, he could speak Marathi very fluently. Apart from eight Indian languages, he also had a good hold of English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Greek, Latin, and Persian. He began editing a Telugu weekly magazine titled “Kakatiya Patrika” in the 1940s, along with distant cousin Pamulaparti Sadasiva Rao, Ch. Raja Narendra, and Devulapalli Damodar Rao. Narasimha and Sadasiva wrote article under the pen name “Jaya-Vijaya”.

Political Career:

Narasimha Rao served as an active freedom fighter during the Indian independence movement and joined politics full time instantly after India attained independence. He became a member of the Indian National Congress and served as a follower of Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, Chief Minister of Hyderabad State. In 1951, he became the member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and thereafter, a member of the State Legislative Assembly in 1957. He held several important portfolios, such as the Minister of Law and Information from 1962-64, Law and Endowments from 1964 to 1967, Health and Medicine in 1967, and Education from 1968 to 1971 under the Government of Andhra Pradesh. After holding various ministerial positions in Andhra Pradesh, Narasimha was elected as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1971. His election surprised several people, regarding a Brahmin holding taking up the position of a Chief Minister. With the split of Indian National Congress in 1969, Narasimha favored Indira Gandhi and continued to be loyal to her during the Emergency and until her death. By 1985, he had gained immense popularity across India for holding several portfolios under the cabinets of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He served as the Minister of External Affairs from 1980 to 1984, Minister of Home Affairs in 1984, and Minister of Defence from 1984 to 1985. Thereafter, he assumed the post of Minister of Human Resource Development in 1985.

Tenure as a Prime Minister:

There has been news of Narasimha Rao contesting for the post of Indian President along with Zail Singh in 1982. After holding diverse portfolios, Narasimha opted for retirement from politics in 1991. However, after then the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, Narasimha got a chance to make a comeback. With the 1991 elections, Congress won the largest number of seats allowing him to rule the minority government. Narasimha presumed power on June 21, 1991 and became the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve the nation for five continuous years. He was also the first South Indian and the first person from Andhra Pradesh to achieve such an accomplishment. But he had not contested in the general elections. Thus, he participated in a by-election in Nandyal to join the parliament. The opposition did not stand against him since he was the first Prime Minister from Andhra Pradesh. As such, he won from Nandyal with a phenomenal success of a record breaking 5 lakh votes. This was registered in the Guinness Book of World Records. He elected Sharad Pawar as his Defence Minister and Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister.

Challenges faced as a Prime Minister:

Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister of India at a time when the nation was on the verge of bankruptcy. As such, he appointed the former governor of Reserve Bank of India, Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister to take charge of the declining capital market. It was during this period that Manmohan opened foreign investment, reformed capital markets, deregulated domestic business, and reformed trade regime. Narasimha was successful in destroying the Punjab separatist movement and neutralizing the Kashmir separatist movement. His government introduced India’s first anti-terrorism legislation, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities(TADA) (Prevention) Act according to which the Indian Army eliminated all secret agents in Kashmir. But the state transformed into a nightmare, despite numerous army campaigns affecting tourism and commerce largely. During his tenure as a Prime Minister, the nation witnessed the most disastrous time even since the Partition of India, the demolition of Babri Mosque on December 6th, 1992. With not much support from Narasimha Rao, the country experienced massive riots throughout the country, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Bhopal. However, in 1993, Narasimha Rao was praised for the use of modern technology and resources to rescue people and provide relief operations to them from the strong earthquake in Latur in Maharashtra.

Achievements in Economic Reforms:

Amongst the several achievements made by Narasimha Rao under his leadership, the liberalization of the Indian economy is considered to be a major one. These reforms were adopted to stop the upcoming international default in 1991. As such, they progressed in several areas, including foreign investment, improving capital markets, deregulating domestic business, modifying the trade regime. He aimed at reducing the fiscal deficit, privatizing the public sector, and increasing investment in infrastructure. Initially, Rao insisted on appointing I.G. Patel as his finance minister. But when the latter declined, Manmohan Singh was selected. Some major economic policies adopted by Rao included introducing SEBI(Securities and Exchange Board of India) Act of 1992 and Security Laws (Amendment), abolishing the Controller of Capital Issues in 1992, opening of India’s equity markets to investment by foreign investors in 1992, starting the National Stock Exchange(NSE) in 1994 which became India’s largest exchange by 1996, encouraging FDI to increase the maximum limit of foreign capital in joint ventures from 40 to 51 percent, and others.

Achievements in National Security:

It was due to Narasimha Rao’s efforts in national nuclear security and ballistic missiles program that India successfully carried out the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. These tests were believed to be initialized during Rao’s term, but were declined due to American pressure when the US intelligence sensed them. Further, it was also alleged that Rao himself leaked the information to get more time to develop and test the thermonuclear device which was not ready by that time. He increased the amount spent on military training and courses to train the army for terrorism and insurgencies. He directed necessary steps to increase the national security of the nation and handled the Indian response to the terrorist seizure at Hazratbal holy shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. Rao undertook several agreements with foreign countries, like Western Europe, the United States, and China. Even the relations with Israel were made public which were otherwise secret until 1992. With this, Israel was allowed to open an embassy in New Delhi. Narasimha Rao also received much admiration with his marvelous dealing of crisis management after March 12th, 1993 Bombay bombings. He visited Bombay personally and asked US, UK, and other West European countries to send their intelligence officers to Bombay to investigate the facts and involvement of Pakistan in the blasts.

Corruption Scandals:

Not just during his rule in the office as the Prime Minister of India, but also after his tenure, Narasimha Rao was known for being associated with direct and indirect charges on corruption. In the 1993 elections, his government was not showing any chances of winning with a majority. As such, Rao was believed to have paid millions of rupees to members of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Janata Dal to vote in favor of him. After the completion of his tenure in 1996, investigations began in the case. In 2000, Narasimha Rao and his colleague Buta Singh were convicted of the charges but Narasimha appealed in the higher court and hence, remained at flee on bail. Both Rao and Buta Singh were cleared of all charges in 2002. In another case, Rao, along with K.K. Tewary, Chandraswami, and K.N. Aggarwal, were indicted for creating false documents indicating that Ajeya Singh opened a bank account in First Trust Corporation Bank in St. Kitts and deposited $21 million in it, thereby destroying his father, V.P. Singh’s image in the public. Though this incident took place way back in 1989, he was charged of it only in 1996 after the completion of his Prime Ministership by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Due to lack of evidence, he was released, along with the other accused. In a third case, Narasimha Rao, Chandraswami, and K.N. Aggarwal, were charged of cheating Lakhubhai Pathak, an Indian businessman from England, for $100,000. This amount was in exchange of supplying paper pulp in India. But Pathak insisted that he had spent an additional $30,000 on entertaining Chandraswami and his secretary. However, there were acquitted due to lack of evidence in 2003. But, this was imprinted as a large black mark on Rao’s administration for his remaining years and even after his death.

Later Life:

After Narasimha Rao completed five years as the Prime Minister of India in 1996, the Congress Party was defeated badly in the general elections. He served as the President of Congress Party until September 1996, after which Sitaram Kesri replaced him. Under his leadership, Rao maintained an authoritarian stance on the party and the members, which led to exit of various prominent Congress leaders, the most popular amongst them being Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Arjun Singh, Madhavrao Scindia, Mamata Banerjee, G.K. Moopanar, and P. Chidambaram. In spite of being a popular political face, Rao suffered from financial troubles with his son’s education being financed by one of his son-in-law. He also found it difficult to educate his daughter for medicine. As per PVRK Prasad, an IAS officer and media advisor of Rao was asked to sell Rao’s Banjara Hills property to pay the dues of all advocates.

Personal life:

Sri. P.V. Narasimha Rao was married to Satyamma. The couple were blessed with three sons and 5 daughters namely P.V.Ranga Rao, P.V.Rajeshwar Rao, P.V.Prabhakar Rao, Sharada Venkata Kishan Rao, Saraswathi Sarath, Vani Dayakar Rao, Jaya Nandan,Vijaya Prasad. His eldest son P.V. Rangarao was an education minister in Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy cabinet and MLA from HanmaKonda Assembly Constituency for two terms. And second son P.V. Rajeshwar Rao was a Member of Parliament of the 11th Lok Sabha (15th May, 1996 – 4th December, 1997) from secunderabad Constituency.

Death:

Narasimha Rao suffered from a heart attack on December 9th, 2004 and was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He struggled for 14 days and breathed his last on December 23rd, 2004. Despite his family’s request to cremate the body in New Delhi, Rao’s body was refused entry in AICC(All India Congress Committee) headquarters and hence, was taken to Hyderabad where it was displayed at the Jubilee Hall. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Bharatiya Janata Party president L.K. Advani, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and the then Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram were amongst the many celebrities and dignitaries who attended his funeral. He was cremated with full honor by the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr. Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy.

Timeline:

  • 1921: Rao was born on 28th June, 1921 in Laknepally, Warrangal, Andhra Pradesh.
  • 1940s: He Started editing in Kakatiya Patrika from 1940s.
  • 1951: He became a member of All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1955.
  • 1957: He elected as a member of State Legislative Assembly in the year 1957.
  • 1962-64: He became Minister of Law and Information under Andhra government from 1962 to 1964.
  • 1964-67: He served as Minister of Law and Endowments under Andhra government from 1964 to 1967.
  • 1967: He elected as Minister of Health and Medicine under Andhra government in the year 1967.
  • 1968-71: He served as Minister of Education under Andhra government from 1968 to 1971.
  • 1971: He became Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in the year from 1971 to 1973.
  • 1980-84: He elected as Minister of External Affairs under central government from 1980 to 1984.
  • 1984: He served as Minister of Home Affairs under central government in 1984.
  • 1984-85: He became Minister of Defense under central government from 1984 to 1985.
  • 1985: He elected as Minister of Human Resource Development under central government in the year 1985.
  • 1991: He elected as the 9th Prime Minister of India in the year 1991.
  • 1992: He introduced SEBI Act and Securities Laws (Amendment) in the year of 1992.
  • 1992: He divulged relations with Israel and opened up Israeli embassy in New Delhi in 1992.
  • 1993: He ordered investigations in 1993 Bombay bombings.
  • 1994: He started the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in 1994.
  • 1996: He term as Prime Minister ended on May 16th, 1996.
  • 1996: He accused of bribing Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Janata Dal MPs in the year 1996.
  • 1996: He became President of Congress Party in the year of 1996.
  • 1996: Rao replaced by Sitaram Kesri as President of Congress Party in September, 1996.
  • 1998: He carried out Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.
  • 2000: In 2000, after years of legal proceedings, a special court convicted Rao and his colleague, Buta Singh. But they appealed to high court.
  • 2002: Rao and Buta Singh were cleared of the bribery charges in 2002.
  • 2003: He acquitted of charges for asking extra money from Lakhubhai Pathak in 2003.
  • 2004: Rao was died on December 23rd, 2004 of a heart attack in New Delhi at the age of 83.

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