The heros are of two types. Some of them are born blessed while others are just pushed to the limit. It is hard to decide which side of the line did P V Narsimha Rao stand on and the generations to come can hardly care less. For them, he will be the architect of the era of economic reforms, the person largely responsible for the huge difference between my own 80's childhood and 90's adolescence when suddenly the waiting queue for telephones got shorter by years.
PVNR was the first prime minister whose times I remember in some detail. In fact, now that I look back, I realize that it was in 1991 only, shortly after the death of Rajiv Gandhi that I moved to Lucknow from a small place called Sardhana in west UP. Probably the huge difference in the 80's and 90's that I felt was largely due to this shift and not due to the economic reforms of PVNR but I clearly remember mugging up his full name to show off in front of others. I also remember that he was known to be a very learned man who knew some 11 languages and though he was not a very high profile man before that, he had people's good will in general.
The PVNR that left the post 5 years later and the one that left this world few days ago was just a mere shadow of that person. Life didn't treat him with a light hand towards the end but I don't think that would have come as a surprise to him. Some people called him the Chanakya of Indian Politics and though I'm not sure of the connotations but they were largely negative. But Chanakya never cared for the opinions of so called moralists. He did what he had to do because for him, his motherland was above everything else, even above his own principles if needed.
It is said that the first impression is the last impression. I think that is the first thing that you need to unlearn when you enter politics. The picture that the tenure of PVNR brings to mind is not of the times of reforms but of a time riddled with the scams of all kinds. As the head of the government, most of the blame went to him. People labelled him and his government as the most corrupt and unconstitutional government to ever hold the office in independent India. But is there something we need to read between the lines?
Why was it that suddenly so many scams started coming to light? Was it the increased rate of the scams? or was it the willingness on the part of PVNR to let them come to daylight? The Jain Hawala case was unique in blaming almost every politician whose name you could remember. Very few escaped its claws, not even in Congress, the ruling party. Why didn't PVNR just hushed up the case? After all CBI worked under him and I don't think a lot of MPs would have raised hue and cry over that.
As a friend once pointed out that may be he was aware that it is not possible for him to alone fight all this corruption in the ranks, so what better way but to bring it in open? Let everybody see the state of the system so that everybody feels the pinch to do something? In retrospect, we can say that if he tried to clean the system by doing this, he kinda failed. We are not much better even today. But then that is our failure, not his.
I am not sure why PVNR did what he did and now I have no chance of asking him also but the point of this post is just to recount that may be he was a much bigger hero than the history would ever judge him to be. May his soul rest in peace.
PS: Thanks are due to Arun and Shweta for making me think about PVNR in new light.