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Today's leadership can draw from rasimha Rao's style: Sanjaya Baru

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Oct 2016 12:00 AM GMT

New Delhi, Oct 5: The manner in which former Prime Minister P.V. rasimha Rao functioned — reaching out to all shades of opinion as well his detractors — holds important lessons for today’s leadership, says Sanjaya Baru, veteran jourlist and media adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Baru’s just-published book, “1991: How P.V. rasimha Rao Made History” (Aleph), describes how, coming back from the verge of retirement, rasimha Rao turned the country’s fortunes around with deft economic magement and astute political handling of a volatile situation. “The importance of this book today is to draw attention to the art of political magement in a highly divided tion. I think India was divided in rasimha Rao’s time on key issues — economic, foreign policy and social issues.” He inherited the big problem of the Mandal issue (of reservations for other backward castes, or OBCs) from (predecessor once removed) V.P. Singh. He dealt with it. He tried to seek a solution of the Babri Masjid issue. He reached out to the people. His style was the Nehruvian style of trying to reach out to others, not to aliete his critics but reach out to them and accommodate them. And this is the way India can be maged,” Baru said in an interview.

The most important political decision that rasimha Rao took as Prime Minister was to have “a professiol economist with an intertiol reputation (Manmohan Singh) as his Fince Minister, according to Baru. The rasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo is credited with opening up the economy and ushering in a slew of economic reforms that India is still benefiting from. But, weren’t the reforms something inevitable, an idea whose time had come? Baru said that indeed there were few choices before rasimha Rao at that time, but at the same time there was a strong anti-reform opinion in the government as well as the Congress party. “It is true that when rasimha Rao became Prime Minister the situation was so bad that he had very few options before him. But the fact is it required a lot of political courage to take the Congress party along with him. In fact, there was a lot of resistance within the Congress party to what Rao was doing,” Baru said.

“I think at the end of the day it is not simply the ideas that are important, but how you politically steer those ideas, how you get parliament to support you on what you want to do and how you build public opinion. That is where political leadership is important,” he added. Also, how rasimha Rao maged to run a minority government for a full term without any hassle too speaks volumes about his shrewd political magement, according to Baru. “I think there we should acknowledge the very supportive role of Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Leader of Opposition for two years during Rao’s term). The Bharatiya Jata Party (BJP) took the view that the country is in a crisis and even though rasimha Rao’s was a minority government, they would support it as far as economic reforms were concerned. “They criticised the government inside parliament but they never voted against it. There was never a no-confidence motion brought against the Rao government in the first year. And I think that is an example of very deft political magement by rasimha Rao,” Baru said. According to Baru, even on the volatile Ayodhya movement, rasimha Rao maged to strike an understanding with the BJP, but it was Congress insiders who did him in. “As I said, Rao had a very good equation with Vajpayee and the BJP kept quiet for the entire first year. In 1991, they did not aggravate the Ayodhya situation. The aggravation started in 1992,” he said.

“As rasimha Rao has himself written, part of the problem was within his own party. Some people were feeling uncomfortable at his becoming so powerful. So they allowed the issue to be built up to a point where his position becomes weak,” Baru added. He said that there is little reason to not believe rasimha Rao’s account of the Babri Masjid demolition as he “wrote and published the book on this subject” in his lifetime. “Rao is the only Prime Minister who has written a book on his own explaining what happened. I trust his account that he was betrayed both by Kalyan Singh and the BJP as also his own party. His party played a double game by not allowing him to negotiate a settlement that he was trying,” Baru said.

According to Baru, it was senior Congress leader Arjun Singh who led the revolt against rasimha Rao and who created problems for him. “Arjun Singh also created trouble for Manmohan Singh as well during UPA-I. And that is why he was not inducted in the UPA-II,” Baru said. Baru rues that there have been attempts to give a lot of credit of the 1991 economic reforms to leaders like Rajiv Gandhi and others. (IANS)

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