Twenty-nine years after the historic budget proposals of 1991-92 presented by then finance minister Manmohan Singh under the guidance of PV Narasimha Rao, and 16 years after the shameful incident of keeping the body of the former prime minister of India lying unattended outside the headquarters of the Indian National Congress (INC), the party today posted a nostalgic black-and-white photo of the occasion of the watershed event on social mediums. How grudgingly the party led practically throughout the period since Sonia Gandhi entered politics formally in 1998 had accepted Rao was evident from the fact that UPA-era Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh hogged both Instagram and Twitter, seen in the archived photo standing in his office after presenting the Union Budget in 1991.
While few know Rao’s first choice was IG Patel for the post of finance minister, an invitation that Patel had declined and referred the then prime minister to his junior Manmohan Singh. And even fewer would know Singh had never been an advocate of free markets before Raonpushed him to take that position. But today, the INC remains more comfortable seeking credit for the liberalisation and globalisation processes by keeping Singh on the front and offering Rao, at best, a passing mention.
Rao-driven Manmohan Singh boosted India’s economy with import tariff cuts, reduced tax rates, fewer taxes, more foreign investments and other measures that eventually led to a relatively liberated India — a process accelerated further in the period 1998-2004 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s choice Jaswant Singh, the benefits of which surfaced during UPA I when the revenue the industry generated sustained the socialist-welfare schemes of 60 communist MP-supported government.
“Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his North Block office after presenting the 1991 budget,” the INC wrote on Instagram.
Singh joined INC chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi to offer their best wishes to the Telangana unit of the party for organising a year-long celebration on the birth centenary of Rao. The visionary prime minister of India, who had famously stated that liberalisation was “irreversible” — and future governments trying to reverse the process would spell doom for the country — was born in Laknepalli, a village panchayat in Narsampet mandal in District Warangal of undivided Andhra Pradesh. That part of India’s map is now in Telangana.
The words of the Nehru-Gandhis assume significance as Rao was known to have had frosty ties with the dynasty through the 1990s.
“I am extremely happy that the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee is holding year-long birth centenary celebrations of a great son of the soil, our former Prime Minister Late Shri PV Narasimha Rao ji,” Singh tweeted using the official handle of the INC.
“Govt took office after (the) sad demise of Shri Rajiv Gandhiji. I said ‘he’s no more but his dream lives on; of ushering India into 21st century; of a strong, united, technologically sophisticated but humane India.’ Dedicated budget to his inspiring memory,” Singh said today.
“PV Narasimha Rao ji can be called (the) father of Economic Reforms in India. He was an important member of the Congress, working closely with Late Smt Indira Ji & Shri Rajiv Ji. He was chosen to become Congress President after (the) assassination of Shri Rajiv ji,” Singh said.