PV Narasimha Rao, the visionary Prime Minister who dared to liberalize a shackled and collapsing Indian economy has historically been treated with absolute contempt and indifference by the Congress high command, which has been monopolized by the Gandhis post-independence. The Congress, having repeatedly insulted their own party stalwart, even in his death, has today perhaps, in its own mind, realized that too much space has been ceded by them for the likes of BJP and TRS to appropriate Rao’s legacy. As such, the Gandhi dynasty is now in a cosmetic damage control mode.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son, future Congress chief Rahul Gandhi have now written congratulatory letters to the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) for organising a year-long celebration on the birth centenary of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who was born in Vangara in Warangal district of what was back then still Andhra Pradesh. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi on Friday participated in the event organised by TPCC and sent messages on the occasion. Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh also took part at the virtual celebration.
“After a long career in state and national politics he became Prime Minister of India at a time of grave economic crisis. Through his bold leadership, our country was able to overcome many challenges successfully. The Union Budget of July 24, 1991 and paved the way for the economic transformation of our country,” Sonia Gandhi said in the letter. She added, “PV Narasimha Rao’s tenure was also marked by a number of political, social and foreign policy achievements that have endured. Above all, he was a dedicated Congress man who served the party devotedly in various capacities…PV Narasimha Rao was a very respected national and international figure. The Congress party takes pride in his many accomplishments and contributions.”
This is the first time that the Gandhis, particularly Sonia Gandhi, have acknowledged the contributions of Rao, even if pretentiously. A party which refused to let the mortal remains of a former Prime Minister and Congress stalwart like Rao be brought inside their headquarters, suddenly growing a liking for the man is a glaring indication of the kind of charade which is being put up by the family.
What is now being seen, however, is that K Chandrasekhar Rao, the Chief Minister of Telangana is increasingly appropriating the legacy of PV Narasimha Rao, and has even started work on a memorial for the former Prime Minister in the state, on the lines of that which has been built for APJ Abdul Kalam in Rameswaram. Realising that the legacy of a great Prime Minister is being lost to other parties, the Congress, acting like a political opportunist is now doing all that it can to confine the late stalwart to Telangana. It took 16 long years after Rao’s death for the Congress to wake up and do so much as to acknowledge the man’s efforts and contributions.
Meanwhile, NV Subhash, the grandson of PV Narasimha Rao, has accused the Congress of celebrating a namesake birth anniversary of the late leader and said the party has ignored Rao’s contributions and insulted him repeatedly. “The Congress High Command has chosen to celebrate this occasion after 16 years of his death and during UPA government, nobody from Congress attended the birth or death anniversary of PV Narsimha Rao. Why did you take 16 long years to celebrate? Congress needs to explain this. Narasimha Rao was a national leader. TPCC is following specific instruction from the central leadership and Gandhi family that PV Narasimha Rao should be confined to Telangana. There is no celebration in Delhi, nor has his achievements been appreciated by Congress high command,” he said.
PV Narasimha Rao was the first non-Gandhi Prime Minister to complete five years in office, back in the day. Further, he was not a puppet in the hands of the dynasty, and was a sovereign Prime Minister who refused to take orders from the Gandhis. This, coupled with the fact that it was under his rule that the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, added to the animosity between him and the Gandhis. Perhaps realizing themselves that they have become too dynastic a party, the Congress has now taken to appreciating PVN Rao.