Remembering ‘Father of Indian Economic Reform’ Narasimha Rao on Birth Anniversary

P.V. Narasimha Rao

New Delhi, June 28: P.V. Narasimha Rao, often referred to as the “Father of Indian Economic Reforms” served as the 9th Prime Minister of India from 1991 to 1996, will always be remembered as the man who took office when the country was in its worst phase of economic turmoil and led the way to recovery and transformation.

Rao’s ascendancy to the prime ministership was politically significant in that he was the first holder of this office from a non-Hindi-speaking region, belonging to the southern part of India. He led an important administration, overseeing a major economic transformation and several home incidents affecting the national security of India.

Through his keen foresight, Rao initiated a new era of liberalization. His reforms opened up the Indian economy for speedy development and growth. He was called the “modern-day Chanakya” for steering in tough economic and political reforms

On the occasion of his 97th birth anniversary on June 28, let’s take a look at his journey towards becoming the Father of Indian Economic Reform:

His Early Life:

He was born on 28 June 1921 in a Niyogi Brahmin family in a village Laknepalli, Narsampet Mandal, in Warangal District, now in Telangana.

He studied at Fergusson College and at the Universities of Mumbai and Nagpur, where he obtained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in law.

Rao was a multi-faceted personality who was also a scholar and an intellectual. He could speak in nearly 17 languages and held the interest in varied subjects like computer programming and literature.

Political Career:

Narasimha Rao was an active freedom fighter during the Indian Independence movement and joined full-time politics after independence as a member of the Indian National Congress. His tenure as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh is well remembered even today for his land reforms and strict implementation of land ceiling acts in Telangana region.

President’s rule had to be imposed to counter the Jai Andhra movement during his tenure.He rose to national prominence in 1972 for handling several diverse portfolios, most significantly Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs, in the cabinets of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, it is speculated that he was in the running for the post of India’s President along with Zail Singh in 1982.

Rao very nearly retired from politics in 1991. It was the assassination of the Congress President Rajiv Gandhi that persuaded him to make a comeback. As the Congress had won the largest number of seats in the 1991 elections, he had an opportunity to head the minority government as Prime Minister.

He was the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as Prime Minister for five continuous years, the first to hail from the state of Andhra Pradesh, and also the first from southern India. Since Rao had not contested the general elections, he then participated in a by-election in Nandyal to join the parliament. Rao won from Nandyal with a victory margin of a record 5 lakh (500,000) votes and his win was recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records and he was Prime Minister of India at the time when he was MP from Berhampur, Ganjam, Odisha.

Rao’s governance:

Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao services to the nation were invaluable. Under Rao’s governance, the rupee was made convertible on trade account, the idea of a nuclear test in India was first mooted and the ‘Look East’ policy was initiated.

Under his administration, the Licence Raj was dismantled — a major milestone in the history of Indian economics as it reversed the socialist policies of Rajiv Gandhi’s government and paved the way for India to be an active participant in the wave of globalization.

With Rao’s mandate, then finance minister Manmohan Singh launched a series of pro-globalisation reforms, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies, to rescue the almost-bankrupt nation from economic collapse.

Rao died at the age of 83.

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