In an interesting development, Congress top leadership has decided to pay tributes to former PM PV Narasimha Rao. Organised by the Telangana Congress Committee, the tribute is, many critics point out, a belated acknowledgment to the man the Congress party was guilty of ignoring.
In fact, cat was thrown among the pigeons when on his anniversary the PM paid glowing tributes to Rao in Mann ki Baat.
Unlike other former PMs such as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Rao’s birth anniversary was not celebrated by the Congress. No official clip was released nor did the normally active social media team of the party pay a rich tribute to him. Not surprising, again, as when Rao died in December 2004 (when UPA had come to power), his mortal remains were kept outside the main gates of the AICC headquarters.
Tributes were paid to him by the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh — the then PM and Rao's ardent pupil and protégé — but all was done outside the Congress headquarters.
The tribute to be paid to Narasimha Rao will have speeches by former President Pranab Mukherjee and former PM Manmohan Singh, which comes as no surprise. If there has been one Congressman who has regularly visited Andhra Bhawan in Delhi to pay tribute to Rao, it has been Manmohan Singh. The ex-PM has acknowledged Rao as his mentor and the father of liberalization in India.
But what's interesting is that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi gave a message for Rao. Rahul Gandhi said, “We celebrate the legacy of a man whose contribution continues to shape modern India. From joining the Congress party in his teenage years to becoming the PM of the largest democracy, his remarkable political journey reflected his grit and determination."
Sonia Gandhi said, "PV Narasimha Rao’s tenure was also marked by a number of political, social and foreign policy achievements that have endured. Above all, he was a dedicated Congressman who served the party devotedly in various capacities.”
The relations between Sonia Gandhi and Rao, which began as being cordial after Rajiv Gandhi’s death and Rao’s becoming prime minister, soon turned sour. His visits to 10, Janpath to brief Sonia became rarer. The mistrust between the two increased so much that Sonia and her supporters began to feel Rao had huge ambitions of getting rid of her. It was also one of the main reasons why Sonia Gandhi finally took the political plunge. And Rao's mortal remains outside the Congress headquarters was seen as the final breach and something his family has never been able to forgive the Gandhis and Congress for.
Why this sudden change of heart? Well, Telangana chief minister Chandrashekar Rao has written a letter to the PM asking for Bharat Ratna to be conferred on Rao. This even as BJP has accused the Congress of ignoring him while giving a Bharat Ratna out of turn to Rajiv Gandhi. “No one who doesn’t belong to the Nehru Gandhi family is recognised or respected,” said the BJP.
Congress also wants to make headway in southern states. Its Telangana and Andhra unit has given feedback to the top brass that the BJP is marching ahead and despite the UPA forming Telangana it reaped no electoral benefits and Congress runs the risk of being washed out. This is a reason why Congress ants to claim Rao as their own. Many would say its come too late. The dejection Rao felt has not been expressed by him vociferously while he was alive. Congress down south now hopes and knows that dead men tell no tales.