It is not very often that destiny chooses certain leaders to script the history of nations at their most defining times. Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao was one such favourite child of destiny; a ‘Telangana Bidda’ who rose from humble beginnings to become the architect of economic reforms and virtually reinvent India, both at home and abroad. However, it is ironic that a man of such extraordinary erudition, political sagacity and multifaceted accomplishments had to face humiliation in his twilight years and denial of dignity even in death by a party he had given his life for. As the nation remembers the modern-day Chanakya on his 100th birth anniversary, the Telangana government has unveiled plans to organise year-long centenary celebrations, build a memorial and seek Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, for the leader who left an indelible mark on the people of this nation with his contributions across several sectors, including economy, education, social welfare and land reforms. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government deserves appreciation for seeking to restore the pride of place for PV who left behind a rich legacy. The new industrial policy that ended the draconian Licence-Permit Raj and the national telecom policy were the key components of the liberalisation policy scripted and implemented by the PV-Manmohan Singh duo, transforming the economic landscape of the country forever. Nearly three decades later, there is now a broad consensus that liberalisation has led to increased prosperity and income levels and pulled several millions out of poverty.
When PV took over the reins of the country, he inherited an economic crisis, violent insurgencies, and a nation adrift. Despite lacking a majority in Parliament, he successfully carried out bold reforms and completed full term in office, the only Congress leader outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to have done so. Despite his transformational leadership at a time of deep financial crisis, PV was not given his due by the Congress leadership. He had to pay the price for defying the diktats of the dynasty and taking independent decisions. The Congress establishment has, over the years, sought to erase his legacy from the party’s history, painting him as the villain responsible for inaction that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. However, the grand old party never acknowledges the complex set of dynamics involved in the unfortunate episode. When he died in 2004, his body was not even allowed inside the AICC headquarters in Delhi. There was widespread public criticism about improper arrangements made for his funeral in Hyderabad. For the people of Telangana, he represents a true son of the soil who earned a niche for himself in the State and national politics as a scholar-politician, a polyglot and an astute strategist.