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HALF LION – How PV Transformed India

HALF LION

Congress has completely rejected PV’s legacy. It seems that the grand old party want to have nothing to do with one of their own who went on to serve India in many capacities. Even the far right now accepts  that it was PV who allowed the Babari Mosque to be demolished. Manmohan singh has always been given the lion’s share of credit for the Economic Reforms and Liberalisation process which got kick started in the early 90. Even Rao’s foreign policy has also been generally attributed to the need of the hour. It is widely presented as if PV just did what was the bare minimum required to keep the country afloat. As if anyone else is not a product of his times. Contemporary history and media has not been very kind to PV Narsimha Rao, but with the passage of time, his mark on our affairs is becoming clearer.

The numerous corruption scandals took sheen away from his achievements. BY the time he breathed his last in 2004, PV was a forgotten man, especially by his own party. But the last few years have seen a renewed interest in his legacy. History shall be far kinder to him. The biography attempts to shed light on his life and career and manages to present a balanced picture.

IT has often been argued that Rao only followed the dictates of time in pursuing his path breaking economic and foreign policy initiatives. Similar conditions had prevailed for almost a decade and China had initiated economic reforms under Deng Xioaping from 1978 itself. But Indira, Rajiv, VP and Chandrashekhar had failed to take any steps to improve the conditions. It was left to PV, who understood that times have changed and the nation needs to move forward, to introduce path breaking reforms.

His industrial policy, ending of license -quota-permit raj and other reforms required political acumen which PV displayed in abundant measure. Look east, establishing relations with Israel, working towards a thaw with China, warming upto the US policies all showcase the vision of this polyglot. It is also to be kept in mind the circumstances in which an almost retired PV came to ascend the highest seat of power, how weak and tenuous was his hold on the party  and yet how strongly did he move in face of these adversities.

Vajpayee called PV, the ‘Father of the Bomb’. The book analyses how PV might have played the Americans with his stance on CTBT and bought some vital time for the scientists to develop the thermonuclear device. India might have tested during PV’s tenure itself but the Americans had got a whiff and the plan had to be aborted for a future date.

The biography also focuses on his relationships with women (Lakshmi Kantamma,Kalyani Shankar),some godmen (Chandraswami, N.K.Sharma),other leaders like Sonia, Atal ji , Sharad Pawar, Arjun Singh and others. It takes us through his childhood and days of his state politics.

It feels surreal to read about his revolutionary zeal as the CM of Andhra Pradesh in early 70s vis-a-vis land reforms, which finally brought about his downfall. The man hardly looked the part, but he always believed he was there to bring about change.

He was a great scholar who had mastered 10 languages, as well as computer languages like COBOL, BASIC and could even write codes in UNIX. Rao was no minor scholar of International Relations and learnt to play a bit of piano as well. He was also a man who could device changes in electric motor and introduces minor changes in methods of cotton cultivation. It was this open-minded tinkerer who ruled India between 1991 and 1996. He managed all this while being a legislator or an MP for about 40 years, fathering 8 children and holding multitudes of ministries in the State and the Centre.

The book questions PVs conduct during the Babari episode when he was the PM himself as well as Bhopal Gas Tragedy and anti-Sikh riots when he was the Minister of Home Affairs.

His role in the Babari saga shall always be questioned. Perhaps the fact that he had once virtually donned monkhood to lead the Siddheshwari Pitham (Courtallam, TN),as well as the fact that he considered himself  a Brahmin scholar over and above anything else would continue to fuel speculations. But it is a fact that he convinced himself to accept Kalyan Singh’s assurances overruled Arjun Singh and other senior leaders of Congress and himself up for the whole day on December 6, 1992.

One thing is for sure, the RSS and far right would surely attempt to appropriate his legacy with the passage of time. For someone who advocated sweeping land reforms in his youth and considered himself as a secular leader, this might not exactly be a pleasant turn of events. But since his own party is not interested in his legacy, it lies in the street for the Right to pick and showcase it on their shelves.

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