In 1991, when the country was facing a serious economic meltdown, the then prime minister Narasimha Rao initiated a series of reforms to liberalise the Indian economy and brought the country back from the brink of bankruptcy. Sanjaya Baru, veteran journalist and media adviser to former prime minister Manmohan Singh, describes Rao’s journey in his latest book ‘1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History.’
In this book, Baru talks about Rao’s unique style of functioning and describes how it holds important lessons for today’s leadership. The author notes that the appointment of a professional economist, Manmohan Singh, was amongst Rao’s most important political decisions.
In an interview to IANS, Baru said: "He (Rao) inherited the big problem of the Mandal issue (of reservations for other backward castes, or OBCs) from this predecessor V.P. Singh. He dealt with it. He tried to seek a solution to the Babri Masjid issue. His style was Nehruvian and he was trying to reach out to others, not by alienating his critics, but reaching out to them and accommodating them. And this is the way India can be managed."
The Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo was credited with opening up the economy and ushering in a slew of economic reforms that India was still benefiting from. But, weren't the reforms something inevitable, an idea whose time had come?
Baru said that indeed there were few choices before Rao at that time, but at the same time there was a strong anti-reform opinion in the government and the Congress party.
"It is true that when Rao became the prime minister the situation was so bad that he had very few options before him. But the fact is it required a lot of political courage to take the Congress party along with him. In fact, there was a lot of resistance within the Congress to what Rao was doing," Baru said.
With Inputs From IANS.
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