I recently read an article by Vir Sanghvi, the editor of the Hindustan Times. He blames P V Narasimha Rao for many reasons. To me, knowing Rao’s government is like reading history, as I was too young to understand politics then. But still, with all due respect, I’d like to contradict Mr. Sanghvi.
Firstly he claims that, as home minister, Rao failed to protect the sikhs in the riots of 1984. Well… no steps were taken against the rioters, many of whom were prominent congressmen. It is for the readers to decide, that under these circumstances, who should be blamed- the PM, of the Home Minister? Secondly, Sanghvi claims that the Kashmir insurgency that had started in 1989, raged out of control. Frankly, this can be blamed to every PM who followed Rao. Infact, when Rao took over the government, it was unthinkable to even conduct elections in Kashmir. It was Rao who created an atmosphere to conduct elections. It was an important milestone in keeping Kashmir a part of India!
The next acquisition against Rao is Babari masjid. It indeed, is a fact that failing to protect Babri Masjid is the biggest blot on Rao’s record. But let’s make the history clear. It was Shah Bano’s case, which led Rajiv Gandhi’s government to pass the Muslim women (protection of rights on divorce) act, which then lead BJP to grow from a merely 2 seats in 1984 to 89 seats in 1989 general elections which were again fought under Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership. This subsequently led to Advani’s rath yatra and the demolition of Babri Masjid. It’s really sad that the Nehru-Gandhi family is spared even after committing shameful mistakes and everyone else’s is remembered. See! We have forgotten Nehru’s 62 war, Indira’s Emergency, and Rajiv’s Bofors!
It was Rao who appointed Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister, whose economic reforms have brought the nation to glory. It was Rao, who created this platform! Even Singh himself as the prime minister could not push another economic reform in 2004. Rajiv Gandhi was elected with the largest majority in this nation’s history riding on the sympathy wave after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Rao, on the other hand was representing a minority government. Even under such huge political pressures, who brought in the Look East policy of countering China in South East Asia? Who stepped up diplomatic ties with Israel, which supplies a good chunk of defense hardware today? Which prime minister actually sent the leader of the opposition to represent the government in the UN? Who accelerated the dismantling of the Licence Raj? I’m not a Rao fan, nor am I against Rajiv Gandhi or Sanghvi (I’m a great fan of his journalism, actually). But criticizing Rao, calling him “mud”, while portraying other leaders as visionaries, who were involved in the same cases is wrong… I can’t abide it!