Book Review : Rediscovering the Real Hero
|1991: How PV Narasimha Rao Made History; Sanjaya Baru; Aleph Books; Rs 499; Pp 216|
The book is an insider’s account of the politics, economics and geopolitics that combined to make 1991 a turning point for the country and of course, of the history maker PV Narasimha Rao too
Ganesh Krishnan R
“Citizens, do you want a revolution without a revolution?” the words of Maximilien Robespierre, famous French politician during French Revolution, that reverberated in the French Assembly are very much suitable to define Indian mindset which is always craving for revolutionary changes without experiencing the natural hiccups of its execution. If it is very much evident in the era of revolutionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his demonetisation policy, PV Narasimha Rao who ushered in drastic economic and industrial reforms in our country was perhaps the first victim of this popular Indian mindset. When Narasimha Rao assumed the office, the country was grappling with political and economic crises ranging from infamous 1991 economic crisis, Balance of Payments crisis to post-Cold War uncertainties, the collapse of Soviet Union.
Be the Joy of God; Ankit Kumar; Kalpaz Publications; Rs 150; Pp 113
The book, a philosophical conception, explores the ideas and methods which could help us to be the source of our creator’s smiles! These ideas and methods are simple and can be incorporated in our daily lives. They give us another perspective, and inspires us to lead a more peaceful life
Big Mom and Other Stories; BS Bir; Shilalekh Publishers; Rs 495; Pp 234
The book contains twenty five beautiful and artistic stories from different segments of life—rural as well as urban. The writer has successfully drawn a
Human Nature and Human Development; Maithreyi Krishnaraj; Kalpaz Publications; Rs 720; Pp 179
The book looks at different perspectives by different disciplines like Biology, Psychology and Philosophy for answers to the questions that have intrigued us: where are we, what are we, why are we here. How is the nature of the human being depicted by different disciplines and different philosophical exploitations?
The unheard predicament: Social and Legal Perspective on Women and Child Rights; Aishwarya Chaturvedi; Kalpaz Publications; Rs 190; Pp 163
The possibility of equal rights to every individual women and children in particular is the underlying theme in all the essays in this book. The book aims to evoke a thought that it is imperative that women and children get an equal status in the society
Running out of a choice from within Nehru family, being a family driven political party, Congress was also at a critical juncture after the brutal assassination of their leader Rajiv Gandhi, the natural political heir of Indira Gandhi. It was the most turbulent era in Indian politics which is often recalled and pondered on in our modern political analyses. The book under review is an insider’s account of the politics, economics and geopolitics that made the year 1991 an important year in the history in which PV Narasimha Rao played the key role. But in the later years, supporting actors stole the show and the hero sidelined. Now Sanjaya Baru’s narrative of the 1991 divulges the heroic role of Narasimha Rao, the father of reforms.
No doubt, it was nepotism and political opportunism of Rajiv Gandhi which pushed the country to the brink of total collapse in 1991 that was further worsened by his decision to withdraw the support of Chandrasekhar. Giving justice to the title 1991, the book strictly follows a time line, a period of one year spanning from January to December. Starting from the resignation of Chandrasekhar, the narrative runs through eight chapters, namely January: The politics, March: The Crisis, May: The election, June: The Government, July: The Reforms, November: The Party, December: The World and as an epilogue, The Middle Way.
Immediately after taking over the Prime Minister, Rao hardly had much to relish the honey of power like most of his predecessor. Veteran journalist and media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh, Shri Sanjaya Baru successfully laced this thin volume with his personal experiences with both PV and his finance minister Singh.
It was Manmohan Singh who read out the annual budget speech on July 24, 1991 that Sanjay Baru narrates a story in the beginning, he threw a question to the gathering while interacting with students of University of Delhi, who was the Industrial Minister who was responsible for the drastic changes in macroeconomic policy which was largely under ministry of industry, not the ministry of Finance. Unsurprisingly, like many of us, the students failed to answer. It was indeed, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao himself handled the ministry of industry.
When the credit of economic and industrial reforms, popularly known as liberalisation, goes to the account of Manmohan Sigh, who later identified as the face of new turn in India’s economic policy, it becomes pertinent to consider that the appointment of Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister itself was an outcome of a stern political decision taken by Narasimha Rao. According to Baru, Rao consulted PC Alexander and as per his advice Rao went for the choice of Manmohan Singh. Baru writes, “Gandhi made Nehru. PV made Manmohan.” Manmohan Singh has also recognised this fact as Baru remembers, he acknowledged that handsomely at the time of PV’s death, referring to him as his political mentor. When PV died in 2004, Manmohan Singh attended every memorial meeting in New Delhi— the only member of the CWC (Congress Working Committee) to do so.” Interestingly while some loyalists of Nehru family nowadays attributes the discovery of Manmohan Singh to Rajiv Gandhi as if Rajiv Gandhi wanted Singh to be as his Finance Minister in his Cabinet, according to the sources of Sanjay Baru, Rajiv’s real choice was none other than IG Patel.
With Baru’s previous book on Manmohan Singh titled Accidental Prime Minister hitting the market, the title went on ‘viral’ which later became a popular phrase to label Manmohan Singh. In a sense, as Baru says, Rao was the first accidental prime minister of India.While the book provides much details to the political churning happened in that period, the chapter July: Reforms gives so much insights to the formulation of reformative policies of the then Government.
Yes, as Baru rightly cautioned in preface, “The book is not just about PV. It is in fact about 1991”. The much forgotten Prime Minister Rao was proved to be successful in restoring the political and economic stability in the country in a due course of time. The contributions of Rao were later deliberately buried under silence by Nehru family and often misattributed to Rajiv Gandhi to secure their sway over the party. Liberating Indian economy from the hands of an elite political-bureaucratic nexus, PV redefined both the Soviet Model adopted by Nehru and the license raj introduced by his daughter Indira in a single stroke. Apart from a scholarly written work which marks a path-breaking era in Indian politics, Sanjaya Baru’s book is a rich tribute to Narasimha Rao whose contributions have been overlooked by vested interests over a time.