1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History — My Take
“P.V. garu was the best Prime Minister” this is the standard line of my father. His opinion did change for a few days after “The Demonetization” initiative of PM Modi Ji. However, looking at the way things are progressing, I would doubt if my father would go back to his previous line.
As him as to why is PV is the best P.M the nation had till date? He has a standard answer. “P.V. opened up the markets; it is because of him that the country did not default, it is because of P.V. that an economist became the finance minister, PV was the first PM outside the Gandhi-Nehru family to complete a five-year tenure, it was he who averted the biggest crisis of India and gave the nation the much-needed ray of hope.”
I always wanted to know the story of what happened in 1991. Knowing the Congress party and the way the Nehru-Gandhi family controls it, I did not even know as to how P.V. made it to the top job. I wanted to know as to how P.V. kept the family at bay during his term as the P.M. of India. I wanted to know as to how he managed to turn the tide and take the country from socialism into a market-based economy.
Sanjay Baru’s “1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History.” answers a good number of these questions. The book gives us the historical overview as to why we got into that situation in 1991. It tells us about the mistakes India made under Rajiv’s premiership. It tells us as to how Mr. Rajiv Gandhi went on to make one colossal mistake after the other and how those decisions impacted the country.
Then Sanjay Baru speaks about the corrective steps that P.V’s predecessor Shri Chandra Sekhar took. The part around Chandra Sekhar Ji’s decisions to allow US planes to be refueled, his efforts to thwart the crises by seeking help from IMF and all are indeed fantastic. Here again, Rajiv Gandhi chose to apply the brakes, and Chandra Sekhar had to
resign. The anecdotes that Sanjay Baru brings up are amazing; they involve Mr. Rajiv Gandhi who was the head of Congress(I), the then President of India Shri Venkatraman and Shri Chandrasekhar who was then the Honorable Prime Minister of India. One can buy the book just for these anecdotes they are that good.
Then Sanjay speaks about the turmoil that got created with the death of Shri Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress(I) was in a fix. The party lost its biggest leader and was rudderless now. At the same time, it got benefitted due to his death and the sympathy wave ensured that it was the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. Sanjay Baru speaks about the various contenders for the top job within the Congress Party and the way Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao prevailed over all of them.
Then he goes on to explain at length, the way P.V. churned out one reform after the other. He speaks about the way P.V. killed the license and permit raj. Most of us do not know that Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao held the portfolio of “Industry” back then. With one act of reform, he removed the controls imposed by the State and moved India closer to the market-based economy.
Sanjay Baru then speaks about the way P.V. behaved as the Prime Minister, the way he handpicked Mr. Manmohan Singh for the job of the finance minister and the way he backed his FM throughout his term are well depicted here.
The author speaks about the paradigm shift Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao brought into the foreign policy. The Look East policy, the way P.V brought India close to the West, the way he approached Europe, the way he understood the geopolitical significance of the middle east; are all well portrayed.
Then Sanjay Baru speaks about the reform Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao attempted within the
party. He illustrates various moves the PM made and the way he wanted to bring democracy back into the party. He speaks about the way P.V. tried to promote merit over loyalty and democracy over dynasty. The Tirupati convention and P.V.’s speech and its intent prove the point.
The only complaint I have regarding this book is that it ends abruptly. I read some 60-70% of the book and was assuming that I have more in store. Suddenly the book ends, and we have P.V.’s speech that he gave in the Tirupati convention of AICC. It would have been good if the book goes on for a little more and gets a proper ending.
All in all, a book that gives you good value for the money you put in. A book that describes one of the most monumental years in the history of this nation, a book that speaks about two great and often forgotten Prime Ministers of India Shri ChandraSekhar ji and Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao ji. A must read book for political enthusiasts of India