Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday described ex-prime minister P V Narasimha Rao as a great leader who showed courage and conviction in leading the nation through the path of reforms against heavy odds. Addressing the centenary celebrations of Rao in a pre-recorded message, the former president said Narasimha Rao did not just belong to his birthplace Telangana but to the entire country and hoped others across India would be inspired to celebrate his birth centenary.
"I am glad that his centenary celebrations are being organised by Telangana PCC. But I do believe that others would also be inspired to celebrate his birth centenary because he belonged to the whole of India and not only a part of his birthplace Telangana," he said. Mukherjee said Rao was a leader who inspired many, including himself, and was one of the few leaders who attracted admirers of different political hues.
He recalled Rao's contribution in bringing land reforms as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and ushering in an era of economic reforms as prime minister, despite odds. "PV is known for his path-breaking ability to do something which sometimes appears to be impossible. As the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, which was largely dominated by feudal interests, introducing massive land reforms was an act of courage of conviction.
"Similarly, the highly regulated Indian economy where the public sector chose to enjoy the commanding height, when PV Narasimha Rao found that it had degenerated into stagnation and inefficiency, he did not hesitate to bring radical reforms introducing dynamism and exploitation of the country's economic potential," Mukherjee noted. He recalled that Rao went away from traditionalism and introduced radical reforms in the Indian economy to unleash the forces of growth and expansion.
"Rao chose not a politician but an economic expert and eminent economist Manmohan Singh as his finance minister." "I am particularly happy that they have chosen to start the celebrations on this day when the first budget of PV was presented in Parliament," Mukherjee said.
The former President said it is as if destiny had willed for him to have first taken the decision to bring about radical land reforms in Andhra Pradesh as chief minister against heavy odds and then open up a heavily regulated economy as prime minister, again against heavy odds. "Rao was a leader who inspired many. I too am one of them. Working in the party and the government together for decades, I was impressed by his political sagacity, his depth of comprehension of complex issues and his steely resolve to find solutions to even the most intractable of them," he said.
He said Narasimha Rao will be remembered for his many contributions to the nation, foremost amongst which is his sterling success in taking India to the next level of reforms in 1991. These economic reforms, he said, enabled the nation to traverse the path of realising its economic potential.
The former president said Rao became prime minister at a very crucial time, not only on the economic front when the situation was such that India's foreign exchange plummeted to just enough to support two-weeks import and political instability was also there. For over a decade, after Indira Gandhi's death, there was political uncertainty and a tendency to form government by a coalition of political parties, sometimes with divergent views, began in the country, he recalled.
At one hand Rao provided stability, and on the other he encouraged those who belonged to the lower categories of society and youngsters in political activities and pushed them ahead in national politics. "PV Narasimha Rao was a great sagacious prime minister of India. Not only that, he led the Congress party in a very difficult time, because it was not easy to keep the flock of Congress and its workers together with the objective of bringing development, political integration and also moving the nation on the march," Mukherjee noted while paying rich tributes to him.