PV Narasimha Rao: From packing his bags to India’s ‘accidental’ prime minister

Waye nadani! Mata-e-karwaan jata raha,

Karwaan ke dil se ehsas-e-zyan jata raha

— Allama Iqbal

[Mourn the idiocy, that our prized possession is lost,

Even the sense of its loss was lost from our hearts]

Even in dying PV Narasimha Rao avoided the headquarters of the occasion he had as soon as headed. The former prime minister’s 9, Motilal Nehru Marg residence in Delhi was barely 200 metres away from the Congress’s 24, Akbar Road headquarters, however Rao had not as soon as visited the workplace after being compelled to step down as occasion chief eight years earlier, a number of months after the 1996 Lok Sabha electoral rout.


On December 23, 2004, his physique was not about to accomplish that both. The following morning, a flower-decked military gun carriage carrying Rao’s physique was to have been saved briefly on the Congress workplace in order that the occasion’s rank and file might get a final glimpse of the late chief thought-about to be the architect of India’s financial reforms.

But the gun carriage couldn’t make it previous the primary gate, the place it was saved for practically 40 minutes as then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and a number of other ministers paid their final respects and provided wreaths.

According to senior journalist Dr Sanjaya Baru, who was Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s media advisor then, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel had requested him to convey to Rao’s sons that the funeral needs to be held in Hyderabad as an alternative of Delhi.

Rao’s physique, accompanied by his relations, was later flown to Hyderabad on a particular flight that night. Sonia Gandhi deputed All India Congress Committee (AICC) treasurer Motilal Vora and common secretary Ashok Gehlot to accompany the physique.

Among others on the flight had been Union Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan, the designated minister for the state funeral, in addition to a number of Union ministers from the then undivided Andhra Pradesh, together with S Jaipal Reddy, Ok. Chandrasekhar Rao, Renuka Chowdhury and Panabaka Lakshmi.


Rao remained a staunch Congressman all through his profession that spanned over six many years however died an sick and bitter man, seven months after the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA got here to energy in 2004.

Already remoted since 1996, when Rao was first eliminated as chief of Congress occasion in Parliament after which sacked because the Congress president, he spent the previous couple of years of his life blaming each his occasion and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the single-most controversial occasion that blotted his reign — the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

While he accused a few of his occasion colleagues of constructing him a scapegoat, he held the BJP liable for destroying his in any other case spectacular political profession. In his e-book, Ayodhya 6 December 1992, printed after his dying in 2006, Rao has argued on a singular level — the BJP scuppered a potential resolution to the temple tangle to preserve the pot boiling.


A agency believer in astrology, Rao used to say his ‘janam patri’ (astrological beginning chart) had a curler coaster journey essayed for him. There was quite a lot of fact in his perception.

In 1991, he had packed bags and was shifting to his birthplace Warangal in Andhra when future signalled that it had one thing extra in retailer for him. He would maybe have even shifted out of Delhi a lot earlier than had a technician turned up to help him with packing a cumbersome laptop system he had acquired in 1990.

On May 21, 1991, the information of Rajiv Gandhi’s ugly assassination at Sriperumbudur shocked everybody and triggered an enormous void within the political enviornment. There was no clear mechanism for succession within the Congress. The Gandhi household’s maintain had dismantled the put up of quantity two within the occasion.

Indira Gandhi, without end suspicious, had taught her son Rajiv Gandhi an vital lesson — to preserve regional satraps at bay and never to promote anybody not a part of the NehruGandhi clan.

As prime minister, Leader of the Opposition and chief of the Congress, Rajiv Gandhi might have spent hours and days reducing regional satraps to measurement, however many nonetheless nursed the ambition of turning into prime minister as an alternative of him.

Rajiv’s sudden dying introduced their ambitions into play. One amongst these vying for the prime ministerial put up was Sharad Pawar from Maharashtra, who had a knack of hanging offers with his foes.

Then there was Narayan Dutt Tiwari, a seasoned Brahmin chief from Uttar Pradesh who was thought-about a politician amongst politicians.

Madhya Pradesh chief Arjun Singh was identified for his political expertise and as a chief minister gave Rajiv Gandhi a tough time by continually disobeying him. When Rajiv Gandhi requested him to step down following his indictment in a courtroom case, Singh rebelled and compelled Gandhi to strike a take care of him.

There had been additionally Karnataka Chief Minister Veerendra Patil, his Andhra counterpart M Channa Reddy and others who had been saved at arm’s size.

To counter these leaders, Rajiv Gandhi had promoted a set of courtiers who lacked a mass base of their very own to highly effective positions, together with Buta Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jitendra Prasada — who had been informally given the title ‘rootless wonders’ by their very own occasion males.


Eighteen hours after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the apex decision-making physique of the occasion, consisting of 12 members and two everlasting and 4 particular invitees, met at 24, Akbar Road, the Congress occasion’s headquarters in New Delhi.

According to the Congress structure, the occasion’s senior-most common secretary ought to head such conferences, however there was little or no settlement on the seniority of the final secretaries.

Finally, Pranab Mukherjee, who was not within the succession race, proposed Rao’s title to chair the assembly. Rao was non-controversial and readily accepted by all teams and factions.

In truth, Rao was typically seen at Rajiv-Sonia Gandhi residence 10, Janpath on the time of escorting overseas dignitaries, who had come to take part in Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral. There was nobody who might deal with the scenario apart from Rao and Natwar Singh, each of whom had publicity to many heads of state and leaders from African nations.

Rao, who had served as India’s exterior affairs minister throughout 1980-84 and once more in 1988-89, had personally identified and interacted with many visiting dignitaries and was subsequently considered well-suited for the job.


The CWC had to meet once more a day later when Sonia Gandhi on May 22, 1991, declined to lead the Congress. On May 23, Rao sat stoically when Arjun Singh rose to suggest his title and Sharad Pawar seconded it. Within minutes, Rao was not solely Congress president however the Congress’s prime ministerial candidate too.

Five years of Narasimha Rao’s premiership (1991-96) noticed many highs and lows. Rao was India’s first ‘accidental’ prime minister, and a path-breaking one.

He took cost of the nationwide authorities and restored political stability, assumed management of the Congress and proved that there was hope past the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, pushed by vital financial reforms and steered India by the uncharted waters of the post-Cold War world.

Rao not solely dominated a full time period, however his insurance policies ushered in a brand new period and gave a brand new path to nationwide politics. He was an unlikely prime minister however a seminal one. The nation’s financial disaster in 1991 was a consequence of unhealthy financial administration of the previous.

One of Rao’s many contributions was his religion and belief in economist Dr Manmohan Singh, who was made finance minister throughout 1991-96 regardless of him not having political expertise or clout. Rao trusted Manmohan’s financial acumen.

As prime minister, Rao gave Manmohan full assist to clear the ‘cobwebs of unnecessary control’ that had impeded financial growth and decreed that ‘the world has changed, and the country must also change’.


Rao died eight months after Sonia Gandhi-led UPA got here to energy in 2004. During these days of isolation, sickness and maybe indignity, he used to admit that the Babri demolition of December 1992 had destroyed his in any other case spectacular political profession.

In 2020, Sonia Gandhi lastly acknowledged Rao’s contributions. Marking his beginning centenary and the twenty ninth anniversary of the Union price range introduced on 24 July 1991 by the Rao regime, she praised Rao’s contribution to the nation and Congress.

Some within the Congress felt it was merely a ploy not to let both the BJP or the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) usurped Rao’s legacy.

Sonia Gandhi additionally wrote a letter saying, “PV Narasimha Rao was a much respected national and international figures. The Congress party takes pride in his many accomplishments and contributions.”

“The birth centenary of Rao is an occasion to recall and pay tribute to a most scholarly and erudite personality, who after a long career in state and national politics, (became) the prime minister of the country at a time of grave economic crisis.”

Rao was born on June 28, 1921. Even because the nation begins the One centesimal-year celebrations of PV Narasimha Rao, his dignity and honour inside the Congress is considerably restored.

Had he lived on as we speak, the previous man would have allowed himself a chuckle within the wake of the Congress, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi outpouring phrases of affiliation and sympathy for him.

Read | PV Narasimha Rao: The 10th Prime Minister who changed the face of Indian economy

Read | Telangana to organise year-long centenary celebrations for former PM PV Narasimha Rao from June 28

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