TRS, Congress in tussle to claim legacy of ex-PM Narasimha Rao

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Telangana’s ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government kicked off year-long centenary celebrations of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao with a publicity blitz even as the local unit of the Congress, Rao’s own party said it too would celebrate his centenary (his hundredth birthday is on June 28 2021) , as competitive politics saw the two parties trying to outdo each other in their bid to claim the political legacy of the late leader.

TRS supremo and Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, made a strong pitch for conferring Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, on Rao and placed him at par with the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

At a function in Hyderabad, KCR paid tributes to Rao on his 99th birth anniversary and called him the “proud son of Telangana” while recalling his contributions to the country when it was passing through a critical phase during his tenure as PM 1991-96, including ushering in bold economic reforms.

KCR claimed that Rao did not get the due respect in the Congress and said he would soon meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek Bharat Ratna for the late leader.

“While Jawaharlal Nehru ji was among the architects of modern India, it was PV Narasimha Rao who initiated economic reforms....created a global India. There is no doubt about it. He was in the same league as Nehru. PV was a personality who was on par with Nehru,” he said.

In full page advertisements in national and regional newspapers published on Sunday, the state government also described Rao as ‘Telangana’s son….India’s Pride’.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Modi also paid tributes to Rao. In his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio broadcast, Modi said Rao led the country through a “critical phase”.

It is well known that Rao shared an uneasy relationship with the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress rarely mentions the former Prime Minister in any of its programmes.

A powerful section in the Congress blames Rao for his political misjudgment of the Ayodhya issue and his failure to stop the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 when he was the Prime Minister.

While former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who held the finance portfolio in the Rao government from 1991 and 1996, has always paid glowing tributes to the late leader, others in the party have usually been more reticent about this.

That seems to have changed this year. Several Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram, paid tribute to Rao on Sunday.

In a Facebook post, Gandhi wrote: “My tribute to former Congress President and Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao Ji on his birth anniversary.”

On its official twitter handle, the Congress said: “We honour PV Narsimha Rao, a visionary leader who oversaw major economic transformations of the Indian economy. His contributions to the nation shall never be forgotten.” It added that Rao put India on the world’s economic map.

Chidambaram mooted the idea of naming a university, existing or new, after Rao to focus on the “study of the old PPE -- Politics, Philosophy and Economics -- subjects in which the former Prime Minister was a scholar and practitioner”.

Rao was a scholar and a linguist and spoke 17 languages and was good enough in six of them to actually translate scholarly works. His quiet demeanour also hid a shrewd political mind.

In a statement, Chidambaram said Rao was the person who boldly pulled India out of an outdated mindset and put the country firmly on the path of becoming a prosperous and self-reliant nation.

The Telangana Congress too is celebrating Rao’s centenary year and reiterated its demand for Bharat Ratna for him.

Telangana Congress president Uttam Kumar Reddy told reporters in Hyderabad that party chief Sonia Gandhi has directed the state unit to celebrate Rao’s centenary year in a befitting manner. “A committee will be constituted to conduct various programmes. His family members will be invited in all the programmes,” Reddy said, adding the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh assembly in January 2014 passed a resolution demanding Bharat Ratna for Rao.

Former union minister Jitin Prasada, whose father Jitendra Prasada was political secretary to Rao, tweeted: “Tributes to former PM #PVNarasimhaRao ji on his birth anniversary. My father worked closely with him as his political secretary and witnessed the course changing economic policies ushered in by Rao sahab which opened up the Indian economy and gave it a much needed impetus.”

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