New Delhi: The Congress party has woken up to the fact that it cannot afford to lose former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s legacy, like it has lost many other icons to the BJP, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said in episode 531 of CutTheClutter.
If the Congress loses Rao, then it’s inevitable that in the course of time, it will also lose Manmohan Singh to the ruling party. The party knows that it cannot hail Singh as a great reformer without acknowledging that his work as finance minister was under Rao’s time as PM, Gupta said.
He added that it is in light of this realisation that party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Singh issued eulogies in praise of Rao and his contribution Friday, the 29th anniversary of the 1991 economic reforms.
The Congress party now seems to be waking up to the fact that because of their obsession with the Gandhi-Nehru family, they have been losing most of the icons of their own past to the BJP.
For instance, Bhagat Singh was not a Congressman. But it is because the Congress never quite embraced him as tightly as they could have that almost everybody has hijacked him — from the Left, where he technically belonged, to even the BJP, the AAP and Anna Hazare.
The Congress even lost ex-PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and his legacy. The party didn’t have any reason to dump Subhash Chandra Bose, but it did. So he has also been taken away completely by the BJP. Same is the case with other freedom fighters like Madan Mohan Malaviya and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, said Gupta.
This is because the BJP and RSS have a desperate need for their heroes of the freedom movement. Besides V.D. Savarkar’s complex legacy, the BJP-RSS have very little to show for by way of heroes and stars of the Freedom Movement — that’s a reality. So they’ve actually happily adopted what the Congress abandoned, he said.
Some eyes in the Congress would have lit up in concern when Pranab Mukherjee was honoured with the Bharat Ratna by the Modi government, and it is only a matter of time before Rao too is given that honour.
Will have impact on Congressmen
The Congress, particularly people seen to be close to the party’s dynastic establishment, have been very critical of Narasimha Rao’s economic reforms.
After the party lost elections in 1996, the many entity committees that were set up to find responsibility for the loss had blamed the economic reforms. And they thought that under Rao, Congress had strayed from the party’s old socialist ideas, Gupta said.
The party had also held him responsible for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, which took place when he was the PM in 1992. To that extent, they held Rao responsible for losing the Congress its Muslim vote forever, he added.
But after decades of ignoring him, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi in their statements commended Rao’s “bold leadership” and “erudite personality”.
Praising Rao’s political milestones, Sonia in her statement said, “Above all, he was a dedicated Congressman who served the party devotedly in various capacities.” Rahul Gandhi also showered praise on Rao, saying his “contribution continues to shape modern India”.
“Frankly once again, one hasn’t seen Rahul Gandhi praise Narasimha Rao in an unqualified manner like this so far. This will have an impact on the Congressman down the line, especially people like A.K. Antony and many others of the old ‘Darbar’ people who’ve been very critical of Narasimha Rao, specifically his economic reforms,” he said.
Regional parties trigger
Gupta said the trigger for this move was the fact that the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao announced year-long celebrations to mark Rao’s centenary, and also demanded a Bharat Ratna for him. The YSR Congress Party has also issued statements praising Rao in the past.
These were clear signs that regional parties were hijacking Rao and his legacy, he said.
Even before the split of Andhra Pradesh into two states (in 2014), a highway going from the (Hyderabad) city to the airport was named after Rao.
“As far as I know, it’s the only major landmark in the country named after him because Congress not just forgot his name, but they basically buried him and declared him the villain, responsible for the decline of the Congress party,” he said.
You can watch the full episode of Cut The Clutter here:
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