In a long-overdue recognition of his pivotal role in shaping and transforming modern India, former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao has been posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in the country.
PV Narasimha Rao, who served as the 9th Prime Minister of India from 1991 to 1996, was a trailblazer in economic reforms that steered the nation through challenging financial, political, and social turbulence during his tenure. Rao’s ascendancy to the prime ministership marked a significant milestone, as he became the second holder of this office from a non-Hindi-speaking region and the first from South India.
Renowned for his adept leadership, Rao played a crucial role in dismantling the License Raj, a move that reversed the economic policies of the previous government and set the stage for India’s global economic integration. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who served as Rao’s finance minister, hailed him as the true father of economic reforms in India.
Under Rao’s leadership, India witnessed a major economic transformation, with the implementation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies to rescue the nation from an impending economic collapse. His visionary approach to economic policies earned him the moniker ‘Chanakya’ for his ability to navigate legislative challenges while heading a minority government.
Beyond economic reforms, PV Narasimha Rao played a pivotal role in steering India through various challenges, including the emergence of the BJP as a major political force. Future prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh continued the economic reform policies initiated by Rao’s government.
Rao’s legacy extends to national security, where he energized the nuclear security and ballistic missiles program, leading to the historic 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. His tenure also saw decisive action against terrorism and insurgency, notably defeating the Khalistani terrorism in Punjab.
In the realm of foreign policy, Rao made significant diplomatic overtures to Western Europe, the United States, and China. He launched the Look East policy, bringing India closer to ASEAN, and took steps to bring India’s relations with Israel into the open.
Despite his numerous achievements, Rao faced criticism during his tenure and was even sidelined by his own party. However, retrospective evaluations have recognized his contributions, positioning him as one of the best prime ministers in India’s history.
PV Narasimha Rao’s Bharat Ratna comes as a belated but fitting acknowledgement of his indispensable role in shaping India’s destiny. The conferment of this prestigious honour reflects the enduring impact of his leadership on the nation’s economic, political, and security landscape.
As India celebrates the recognition of PV Narasimha Rao’s legacy, the nation reflects on the profound contributions of a leader whose vision and courage left an indelible mark on the journey towards a modern and prosperous India.