Ex-PM PV Narasimha Rao was a great son of the soil and he can truly be called the Father of economic reforms in India as he had both the courage and the vision to push them forward, Manmohan Singh, said on Friday.
Manmohan Singh, addressing the function of the year-long birth centenary celebrations of the late prime minister organised by the Congress, said he is particularly happy that the programme coincides with the presentation of the 1st budget of Rao’s government by him in 1991.
The 1991 economic budget is hailed by many as one that laid the foundations of a futuristic India and the roadmap for pushing economic reforms.
Recalling that he as a finance minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet had dedicated his first budget to the memory of Rajiv Gandhi, Singh said the 1991 budget changed India in several ways as it ushered in liberalisation.
“It was a hard choice and a bold decision and it was possible because prime minister Narasimha Rao gave me the freedom to roll out things, after he fully understood what was ailing India’s economy at that time,” said Singh,
“On this day, while inaugurating his birth centenary celebrations, I pay my humble respects to the man who had the vision and the courage to push these reforms,” the Congress leader said, adding that Rao, like former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, had great concern for the country’s poor.
Singh saw Rao as a philosopher, friend and guide.
Real tough decisions had to be urgently taken in 1991 as India was faced with a far off exchange crisis, and with exchange reserves right down to about two weeks’ imports, it brought the state to the sting of a precipice, he said.
“But then, politically, it had been an enormous question if one could take hard decisions to satisfy the challenging situation. it had been a precariously placed minority government, which was hooked in to outside support for stability. Yet Narasimha Rao ji was ready to carry everyone along, convincing them together with his conviction. Enjoying his confidence, I went about my job to hold forward his vision,” Singh said
Quoting French poet and novelist Hugo , Singh said he had once said that “no power on earth can stop a thought whose time has come.” India’s emergence as a serious economic power was one such idea, he said.
“There was an arduous journey ahead but it had been time to let the entire world know loud and clear that India was awake . the remainder is history. Looking back, Narasimha Rao can truly be called the daddy of economic reforms in India,” the previous prime minister said
Singh also recalled the political journey of Rao that started from the times of the liberty struggle
Rao as a Union cabinet minister had held important portfolios of human resource development and external affairs, and was a crucial member of the Congress, who had worked very closely with late Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, he said.
Singh said Rao was chosen to become the Congress president after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and have become the automated option to become prime minister on 22 June, 1991. “It was on today that he made me his minister of finance ,” he said
While economic reforms and liberalisation were indeed his biggest contribution, his contributions to the country in several fields can’t be underestimated, Singh said
On the foreign affairs front, he said Rao made efforts to enhance the connection with our neighbours including China and India signed the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement along side the SAARC countries.
“Then the ‘Look East Policy’ was also his brainchild to link India with East and South-East Asian countries,” the Congress leader said
It was also under his leadership that the Indian space programme got an impetus with the successful testing of the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) and therefore the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Singh recalled
He noted that India also successfully tested the Prithvi missile to strengthen and enhance external security capability then
Rao had also asked late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 1996 to urge ready for nuclear tests to require India to hitch a replacement league, which were later conducted by under the prime minister Vajpayee-led NDA Government in 1998, Singh said
“That was a difficult era in politics. Endowed with a cool temperament and deep political prowess, Narasimha Rao ji was always hospitable debates and discussion. He always tried to require the Opposition into confidence,” he said, adding that deputing Atal Bihari Vajpayee because the leader of the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission was one such example.
Former prime minister Rao left behind an unmatched legacy of being a linguist, well versed in 10 Indian and 4 foreign languages and a scholar, Singh said.
He was one among the primary converts to new technology by not only becoming adept with employing a computer but also became proficient with programming. This was possible because he was always willing to find out new things, he said.