On June 21st 1991, P.V Narsimha Rao was sworn in as the ninth Prime Minister of India.
Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao, popularly known as P.V Narsimha Rao was born on June 28th 1921 in Varanga (present day Hyderabad). Born to a humble Telegu Karanam family, Rao did his Bachelor’s of Arts from Osmania University and completed his Masters in Law from Fergusson College, Pune.
Rao was an active freedom fighter in his youth and later joined full time politics as a member of the Indian National Congress. Narasimha Rao also served as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh from 1971 to 1973 and is remembered for his land reforms. Under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Rao handled many portfolios including Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs. In 1991, Rao almost retired from politics, but it was the assassination of Congress President Rajiv Gandhi which made him return. Since the Congress had won the largest number of seats in the 1991 elections, Rao became the ninth Prime Minister of India.
P.V Narsimha Rao was the first person outside of the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as Prime Minister of India for five consecutive years. Rao’s cabinet also consisted of, for the first time, a non-political economist, Dr.Manmohan Singh, as the Finance Minister (who later went on to become Prime Minister of India).
When in office, Rao put in place reforms aimed at opening up to foreign investments, reforming capital markets, deregulating domestic business and reforming the trade regime. Rao’s government also aimed at reforming fiscal deficit, increasing investment in infrastructure and privatization of the public sector. Opening India to foreign trade meant making changes in the regulation of foreign direct investment and trade reforms being out into place. Not only would this give India a spot in the international market, but it would also help in balancing external loans.
Major economic policies put in place by Rao included, abolishing the 1992 Controller of Capital Issues, which decided the prices and numbers of shares a company could issue. Under Rao’s government, tariffs were reduced from an average of 85% to 25% and quantitative controls were rolled back and the rupee was made convertible on trade account. Rao encouraged Foreign Direct Investment by increasing the maximum limit of share of foreign capital in joint ventures from 41% to 51% with 100% foreign equity permitted in priority sectors. The impact of reforms put in place by Narasimha Rao resulted in total foreign investment in India going up from USD 132 million in 1991-92 to USD 5.3 billion in 1995-96.
Narasimha Rao will be remembered for his exemplary work in the fields of national security, foreign policy and crisis management. Rao galvanized the national nuclear security program and it was under his Prime Ministership that India saw the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. Apart from pushing up military spending, Rao also directed the Indian Army to fight threats of terrorism. Terrorism in Punjab finally came to an end under his tenure. Aircraft hijackings which occurred during Rao’s time ended without the government agreeing to the terrorists demands. Also well handled by Rao was the occupation of the Hazratbal Shrine by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir; the occupation was brought to an end without any damage to the shrine. The kidnappings of foreign tourists by a terrorist group in Jammu and Kashmir, was very efficiently handled by Rao’s government.
Rao made diplomatic approaches to countries in Western Europe, United Sates and China. In 1992, Rao brought out in the open India’s relations with Israel, which had been kept secret for quite a few years and invited Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi. The Look East foreign policy was also launched by Rao and which ultimately improved India’s ties with ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).
Rao was greatly praised for his disaster management skills after the 1993 Mumbai bombings. As Prime Minister, he personally visited the effected sites in Mumbai and after having seen proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the bombings, ordered intelligence agencies from the US, UK and other Western European countries to investigate and examine facts.
In 1991, India found itself in the middle of a serious financial crisis and was on the verge of bankruptcy, which was averted by the foresight of Rao who decided that India would gain immensely if it were to liberalize its economy. This task was given to India’s finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who had been a governor with the Reserve Bank of India.
In 1996, Rao and his Congress party were defeated in the General Elections and he had to step down as Prime Minister. Even after his exit as Prime Minister Rao maintained his leadership in the Congress until the end of 1996, after which he was replaced by Sitaram Kesri.
It is unfortunate that today’s’ Congress leaders don’t give Rao his due credit and refrain from giving him credit for boosting economic reforms in India during the '90s.
Narasimha Rao passed away due to a heart attack on December 9th 2004 and was cremated with full state hounours. Rao was greatly interested in Indian literature and was fluent in many languages such as Telegu (his mother tongue), Marathi, Hindi, English, Tamil and French. He has also translated Telegu classics like Veyipadagalu into Hindi, titled Sahasraphan. Rao also translated a Marathi novel by Hari Narayan Apte titled Lakshat Kon Gheto? into Telugu. In his later years, Rao opened his autobiography titled The Insider which talks about his experiences as a politician.
Also On This Day:
1576 - The Mughal army defeats Rana Pratap Singh in the Battle of Haldighati.
1862 - Ganendra Mohan Tagore is the first Indian to get the Barrister-at-Law Degree after passing the examination from Lincoln Inn University.
1948 - C. Rajagopalachari is appointed the first Indian Governor General of the Indian union.
1998 - India and Russia sign a $2.5-billion deal to set up a nuclear power station at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.