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SAGA CORNER

The good that Narasimha Rao did to the country lives on; the harm too lives on and continues to extract a heavy toll

” Vice President M. Hamid Ansari has said that the good that former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao did to the country lives after him; the harm too lives on and continues to extract a heavy toll. He was speaking after releasing the book ‘Half-Lion’, authored by journalist Vinay Sitapati, in the Capital on Monday. The Vice President said that the ‘diligently researched’ book is a useful contribution to our knowledge of that period. Congratulating the author, Mr. Ansari said that Mr. Sitapati had the advantage of having access to the personal papers of Narasimha Rao including information or assessments on situations and personalities given to him by the Intelligence Bureau. Some may enquire if the Oath of Secrecy and the Official Secrets Act extends to the grave and beyond, he added.The Vice President said that the country, and the world, acknowledges Narasimha Rao’s role as the initiator for change in basic economic policies. On external affairs, his success “was due to cultivated expertise” as he made realistic assessment of the shifts in global power patterns and adjusted policy to India’s immediate requirements, he added.The Vice President said that two sections of the book would invite commentary – these relate to the management of Parliament and to the demolition of Babri Masjid. During the trust vote of July 26, 1992, survival at all cost was the government’s objective and unethical tactics were resorted to; these were eventually also found to be beyond the pale of law, he added. On the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Vice President quoted the author’s assessment – ‘Rao wanted to protect the mosque and protect Hindu sentiments and protect himself. He ended up with the mosque destroyed, Hindus un-attracted to the Congress, and his own reputation in tatters.’

The Vice President said that 25 years ago this week, P.V. Narasimha Rao was sworn in as Prime Minister and informed commentators have recalled his achievements. The country, and the world, acknowledges Narasimha Rao’s role as the initiator for change in basic economic policies. The crisis of 1991 was the catalyst; to him goes the credit for grasping the opportunity, for making commendable judgements on selection of personnel, and for manoeuvring the changes very deftly through the shoals and rapids of a divided polity; the budget of July 1991 and its aftermath was a good example.

Observing that two sections of the book — relating to the management of Parliament and to the demolition of Babri Masjid — would invite commentary, the Vice President said the first was a nightmare by any standard. “”The Congress was around 10 seats short of a majority. The opposition was split between a rightwing BJP and a left wing National Front. The Prime Minister was perceived to be weak; so his focus was on wide ranging consultations with the opposition to ascertain issues and seek a consensus on the parliamentary agenda: ‘The areas of agreement we will concentrate on, the areas of disagreement we will keep aside, if possible.’ This was facilitated by the extensive personal contacts he had developed over years.Mr. Ansari said: “”The nemesis came with the trust vote of July 26, 1992. Survival at all cost was the government’s objective. Unethical tactics were resorted to; these were eventually also found to be beyond the pale of law. The author’s judgement is unequivocal: ‘It was the worst political decision of Narasimha Rao’s career.’On the demolition of Babri Masjid, he noted that the author’s assessment is candid and noteworthy: ‘There is no question that Rao made the wrong decision,’ adding that he should have acted between November 1 and 24 and that his faith in sundry interlocutors – whose names are given in chapter 12 – was misplaced: ‘Rao wanted to protect the mosque and protect Hindu sentiments and protect himself. He ended up with the mosque destroyed, Hindus un-attracted to the Congress, and his own reputation in tatters.’Nor has passage of time diluted the gravity of the error of judgement and tactics. Earlier this year, President Pranab Mukherjee has called the demolition ‘an act of absolute perfidy which should make all Indians hang their heads in shame.’ A few days back a commentator, while lauding the transformation initiated by Narasimha Rao, said the event of December 6, 1992 was ‘born out of a combination of gullibility, complicity and incompetency,’ the Vice President said in his observations.”

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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