Rajiv Gandhi had the blueprint for liberalisation, but could not implement it owing to his “tarred” image in the aftermath of the Bofors scandal. Moreover, had Rajiv lived longer, the possibility of the rollout of economic reforms was bleak as the Congress would not have wanted it.
Vinay Sitapati, the author of ‘Half-Lion: How PV Narasimha Rao Transformed India’, made these remarks at the ongoing Kumaon Lit Fest here today.
“In Congress’ 1985 Bombay session, Rajiv Gandhi had two paras on industrialisation which the party forced him to remove. The Rajiv Gandhi of 1985 is pro-liberalisation. But the Rajiv Gandhi of 1987, tarred by Bofors, is unable to bring about change.”
“If you look at the 1989 and 1991 manifestos of the Congress, it does not talk of delicensing, liberalisation. My bet is, it’s hypothetical, if Rajiv Gandhi had lived and the tragedy not happened, we would not have seen liberalisation,” Sitapati said.
However, the claims were dismissed by Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi as “speculative and hypothetical”. Rajiv was assassinated by LTTE on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai.
According to Sitapati, the blueprints for implementation of liberalisation were available to Prime Ministers who came before Narasimha Rao, but the incapability to tackle opposition did them in.
Rao, who is widely credited with ushering in the reforms in 1991, was the “weakest reformer” in world history as he did not make efforts to sell it convinced by the logic that it would not be a hit with the masses.
“… it is Narasimha Rao himself who kept saying maine kuch nahi kiya, aap sardarji (the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh) se poochiye, IMF se puchiye. The blueprints were available to Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. It required political will to do it.
“He (Rao) had the charisma of a dead fish, possibly the most boring PM India has ever produced. His party hated him and he was a minority in Parliament,” Sitapati said.