Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had many achievements like ending terrorism in Punjab and successfully conducting Jammu and Kashmir polls, other than initiating 1991 economic reforms, but his party Congress let him down, Sanjaya Baru said today.
“Yes, these and many others. Overall, the party has let him down,” Baru, who was media adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, told PTI in an interview.
He was asked if he felt that Rao’s achievements have not been adequately acknowledged.
Taking a swipe at Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he claimed that “Sonia Congress” deliberately tried to malign Rao who was Prime Minister during 1991-1996.
“The ‘Sonia Congress’ deliberately maligned him and has tried to wipe his name off history books,” Baru said.
Rao should be remembered for the sweeping changes he introduced in India’s economic and foreign policy at a particularly difficult moment in India’s recent history, he said.
Rao and his team, including Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, should get credit for the country’s economic reforms programme of 1991, Baru said.
“Undoubtedly the Prime Minister of the day (referring to Narasimha Rao) and his team, including (the then) Finance Minister Manmohan Singh (should get the credit). PV provided leadership as PM. That is what my book shows,” Baru said.
Baru’s new book ‘1991 — How P V Narasimha Rao Made History’ has recently been launched.
He said among the Prime Ministers, Narasimha Rao comes next only to Jawaharlal Nehru in terms of his achievements and the context in which he headed the government.
“I believe he comes next only to Jawaharlal Nehru, given the scale of his achievement and the economic and political context in which he did what he did,” Baru said.
Only a few leaders, other than Narasimha Rao, could have successfully ushered in the economic reforms and complete the five-year tenure despite heading a minority government, Baru said.
Rao’s predecessor Chandrashekhar could be among those few leaders who would have successfully led the country through the difficult times like he did, he said.
“Some others may have also done so. Prime Minister Chandrashekhar could have. But not too many,” he said.
Asked about former Union Minister P Chidambaram’s comments that Rajiv Gandhi would have “more or less” initiated the economic reforms like Rao did, had he become the Prime Minister in 1991, Baru wondered why Rajiv Gandhi could not undertake the reforms programme despite having the massive majority in the Lok Sabha.
“Rajiv Gandhi had the support of over 400 MPs in the Lok Sabha in 1984-89. Why was he unable to? His political skills were limited. PV was a seasoned politician, that is why he could manage dissent within the party,” he said.
Baru dismissed Chidambaram’s comments that Rao failed Congress in 1992 over the issue of the dissolution of Congress Working Committee (CWC) after some of Rao’s detractors were elected to the apex decision making body of the party.
“PV succeeded in conducting organisational elections. However, he felt that election process was rigged by a few North Indian leaders and no woman or Dalit leader got elected, so he dissolved an elected CWC and reconstituted it. Rao did not fail Congress. The Congress failed its own cadre,” Baru said.