Pranab, Manmohan, Chidambaram take part in late PM PV Narasimha Rao's birth centenary celebrations

Ex-PM Narasimha Rao's centenary celebrations begin

· Congress leaders pay rich tributes to ex-PM Narasimha Rao

· Narasimha Rao was one of the greatest PM: Pranab Mukherjee

· PVNR was the father of economic reforms in India: Manmohan Singh

Hyderabad, July 24: The year-old long birth centenary celebrations of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao began here on Friday with eminent personalities including former President of India Pranab Mukherjee and ex-Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh participating in the virtual meeting organised by Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC).

The main event was held at Indira Bhavan in Gandhi Bhavan premises and it was connected online with Zoom App which had nearly 1,000 guests including former Union Ministers P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh. The event was broadcast live on social media platforms and displayed at giant screens at all DCC offices and other places.

PVNR Centenary Celebrations Committee Chairman Dr. J. Geetha Reddy, Chief Patron and Narasimha Rao's brother P.V. Manohar Rao, Honorary Chairman V. Hanumantha Rao, Vice-Chairman D. Sridhar Babu, CLP Leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, Committee Convener B. Mahesh Kumar Goud and others also spoke on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, TPCC President & Nalgonda MP Capt. N. Uttam Kumar Reddy said that Narasimha Rao's political journey was truly inspiring as he began an ordinary Congress worker and later became the Prime Minister of India. Recalling his personal association, he said he used to have regular interactions with Narasimha Rao during his tenure in the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the OSD to Presidents of India R. Venkatraman and Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma. He said Narasimha Rao would be remembered for the land ceiling act and other reforms which he introduced as then the Chief Minister of combined Andhra Pradesh. He said those land reforms helped lakhs of landless poor.

Uttam Kumar Reddy said that Narasimha Rao was a Congressman from his birth till death. He said previous Congress Government had named Asia's longest elevated corridor after Narasimha Rao. He said the Congress MLAs have also moved a resolution in the Assembly seeking Bharat Ratna Award for Narasimha Rao.

"When Narasimha Rao Govt introduced bold economic reforms, India was on the edge of bankruptcy. If today India is 5th largest economic power, then it is largely due to the contribution of Narasimha Rao and his vision," he said.

He announced that the TPCC would organise the year-long celebrations at a grand scale. Further, he said that the party does not wish to politicise the centenary celebrations and it would welcome all the events being organised in honour of Narasimha Rao. "We will celebrate the life and times of PV Narasimha Rao. We will walk on his path and bring the party to power in 2023," he said.

Uttam Kumar Reddy also read out the messages sent by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and ex-AICC President Rahul Gandhi on the occasion.

"The birth centenary of Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao is an occasion for us to recall and pay tribute to a most scholarly and erudite personality. After a long career in state and national politics he became Prime Minister of India at a time of grave economic crisis. Through his bold leadership, our country was able to overcome many challenges successfully. The Union Budget of July 24. 1991 and paved the way for the economic transformation of our country. Shri P.V. 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," Sonia Gandhi said in her message. 

She congratulated the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee for having organised these year-long celebrations. "Narasimha Rao was a very respected national and international figure. The Congress party takes pride in his many accomplishments and contributions," she added.

Rahul Gandhi too congratulated the Telangana PCC on organizing a yearlong celebration to commemorate the birth centenary of Narasimha Rao. "On this occasion, 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. July 24th marks the 29th anniversary of the 1991 budget. On this day, India embarked on a bold new path of economic transformation. Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh played a pivotal role in ushering in the era of liberalisation. I hope this event will revive interest among our youth to learn about India's growth story and the remarkable individuals who made this possible," he said in the message.

Former minister and PVNR Centenary Celebrations Committee Chairman Dr. J. Geetha Reddy described Narasimha Rao as the father of land and economic reforms. She said her mother Eshwari Bai was MLA when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. "I was like his niece. That was the kind of warmth he presented whenever I met him. In fact, Narasimha Rao released my mother's biography after her death and described her as a great Parliamentarian," she said adding that Narasimha Rao was a multi-faceted and multi-talented personality who could speak 17 languages.

Narasimha Rao was one of the greatest PM: Pranab Mukherjee

Addressing the virtual meeting, former President of India Pranab Mukherjee recalled that almost three decades ago Narasimha Rao presented the first budget with Dr. Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister which brought radical reforms in the Indian economy. "Narasimha Rao was known for his path-breaking ability to do something which sometimes appeared to be impossible to do. As the Chief Minister of combined Andhra Pradesh he introduced massive land reforms in a State which was dominated by feudals. It was an act of courage. He brought radical reforms to bring dynamism in the economy. He always went away from traditionalism," he said.

Pranab Mukherjee pointed out that it was former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who inducted C.D. Deshmukh, a former civil servant, into his cabinet as the Finance Minister. After Pandit Nehru, it was Narasimha Rao who brought Mannmohan Singh, ex-RBI Governor, into his cabinet to implement radical reforms in the economy, he said.

The former President of India said that Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister at a crucial time when the economy was in bad shape and the situation was such that Foreign Exchange Reserves plummeted to just one billion US dollars which were well enough to support about two weeks of import. There was also political instability. "In fact, for over a decade after Indira Gandhi Ji's death, there was political uncertainty and there was a tendency to form a government through a coalition of parties. On one side, he provided stability and on the other, he revived the economy," he said.

Pranab Mukherjee said that he was known to Narasimha Rao since 1970s when the latter became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. "He was made an AICC General Secretary to strengthen the Congress party. When Indira Gandhi returned to power and formed a government in 1980, she thought it would be prudent to make Narasimha Rao a foreign minister. He was entrusted with this job which he performed excellently. In the very initial stage, he had to handle a tricky situation in Sri Lanka where the Tamils and Non-Tamils were in a fierce fight due to the beginning of the movement for Tamil Elam. He handled it patiently. He also recognised the need for having peaceful co-existence with China as we have a long border with China in the North-Eastern part," he said.

"Narasimha Rao became the Congress president and then the Prime Minister after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. He managed both the offices effectively. He made huge contributions to build this nation. Sometimes it appeared that he was taking late decisions. But actually it was not late. He patiently waited for creating a consensus over the disputed areas of his decision making and he succeeded in that. Narasimha Rao was one of the great Prime Minister of India. He led the Congress party in difficult times," he said adding that Narasimha Rao belonged to India, all of India and not only a part of his birthplace Telangana.

Narasimha Rao was the father of economic reforms in India: Manmohan Singh

Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh expressed happiness over TPCC's decision to hold the year-long centenary celebrations of Narasimha Rao who he called a 'great son of this soil.'

"I'm particularly happy that this programme is being organised on a day (24th July) when on which I had the privilege as the Finance Minister of India for presenting the first budget of Narasimha Rao's Govt in 1991. That government took off just after the sad demise of Rajiv Gandhi. I had said in my budget speech referring to Rajiv Gandhi that he is no more, but his dream lives on....his dream of ushering India into the 21st century. His dream of a strong, united, technologically sophisticated, but humane India. I had dedicated the budget to his inspiring memory," he recalled.

Manmohan Singh said that the budget presented on 24th July 1991 changed India in many ways. "It ushered in economic reforms and liberalisation. It was a hard choice and bold decision and it was possible because Narasimha Rao gave me the freedom to roll on the things after he fully understood what was ailing the India's economy at that time. Politically it was a big question if one could take hard decisions to meet the challenging situation. It was a precarious placed minority govt which was dependent on outside support for stability. Yet, Narasimha Rao was able to carry everyone along," he said.

"On this day, while inaugurating his birth centenary celebrations, I pay my heartfelt respect to the man who had the vision and courage to push these reforms. Like Rajiv Ji, Narasimha Rao too had a great concern for the poor of the country. Looking back, PVNR can truly be called the father of economic reforms in India. Hailing from Karimnagar district of Telangana, PVNR has embarked on a long political journey starting from the days of freedom struggle. First elected as an MLA in 1957, he was a minister in 1962 and CM of combined AP 1971-73. He had actively pushed land reforms in the State. Thereafter, he was the union cabinet minister holding several important portfolios as Human Resources Development from 1985-88. He was responsible for the National Policy on Education 1986. It had envisaged setting up of Jawaharlal Navodya Schools in the country to bring the best of rural youth," he said.

Manmohan Singh said that economic reforms and liberalisation were the biggest contributions of Narasimha Rao. However, he said PVNR's contribution in several different fields could not be under-estimated. "On the foreign affairs front, he made efforts to improve our relationship with our neighbours including China. India signing South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement along with the SAARC country and then the look east policy was also his brainchild to link India with the East and South East Asian countries. It was also under his leadership that India Space programme got an impetus with the successful testing of re-augmented satellite launch vehicle and the polar satellite vehicle. India also successfully tested Prithvi missile to strengthen and enhance the external security capabilities. He also asked late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in 1996 to get ready for the nuclear test to take India to join a new league of nations. The test was later conducted by Vajpayee-led Govt in 1998," he said.

He said that Narasimha Rao was endowed with a cool temperament and deep political prowess. Narasimha Rao was always open to debate and discussion. Stating that Narasimha Rao always tried to take the opposition into confidence, he cited a few examples of Atal Bihari Vajpayee leading the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission and Subramaniam Swamy heading the Commission on Labour Standards.

"Narasimha Rao left behind an unmatched legacy of being a linguist, well versed in several India and foreign languages. He was indeed a great scholar. He was one of the first converts to new technologically oriented programmes by not only becoming adept to the computer but also became proficient in programming techniques. This was possible because he was always willing to learn new things. I pay my tributes to the memories of a great leader, great son of our country, our former PM, who was a friend, philosopher and guide to me in many ways," he said.

PVNR allowed his trusted people to take decisions: Chidambaram

Addressing the virtual meeting, former Union Minister Chidambaram recalled that today (24th July) was not only the 29th anniversary of the presentation of the first budget of Narasimha Rao Government but also the anniversary of the introduction of New Investor Policy. He said it was a difficult task to break away from the conventional path. "But breaking away from the path was absolutely necessary in the year 1991. People used to ask him how he changed. He told a small group that: I've not changed. I'm standing where exactly I stand and committed to the welfare of the people of India, especially the poor. I've not moved this way or that way. But the ground beneath me has shifted. People say that I've changed later realises that circumstances and context have changed," he recalled and said it was a brilliant response as to why he decided to embark upon bold economic reforms.

Chidambaram said that Narasimha Rao allowed people to take decisions if they enjoyed his confidence. He believed in their decisions and actions. He said initially those decisions looked tough, but in a matter of two years, investments poured in and foreign exchanges started improving and today they were over 1,000 times of what we had in 1991.

Change with continuity was Narasimha Rao's policy: Jairam Ramesh

Former union minister Jairam Ramesh said that Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister on 21st June 1991 under the most difficult circumstances. "After he became PM, he took very unpopular decisions. He was not entirely convinced on the decision for a two-step devaluation of India rupee. But he had trust in Manmohan Singh. Chidambaram came up with a bold trade policy which was again a complete departure from the past. Even here, PVNR was not entirely convinced. But he had the trust and allowed them to continue," he said.

Jairam Ramesh recalled that when Narasimha Rao spoke in the Parliament on 15th July 1991, he was attacked by opposition leaders like Atal Bihari Vajyapee, Chandrashekhar, Somnath Chatterjee, etc., Then he responded by saying that India was facing an extraordinary situation and referred to a quote which says, "When faced with destruction, the wise man gives up the half, So that he could retain the half."

"He did not use words like globalisation or reforms. But he was using words like Maha Prashtana, which came from Maha Prasthanika Parva, 17th chapter of Mahabharatha. The language and idiom with which PVNR was communicating symbolises erudition of Narasimha Rao," he said adding that Narasimha Rao used to say that "our policy is change with continuity."

He said Narasimha Rao's greatest contribution was the selection of Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister and their 'jugalbandi' provided the political leadership and the technocratic design of what came to be known as the economic reform. (Ends)