Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review: 1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History

1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History 1991: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Made History by Sanjaya Baru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr Baru begins by recounting a class lecture in which he asks the students about the relevance of 1991 in Indian polity. He was surprised to note that the answers were mundane. If he asks a similar question today, I wonder how Mr Baru will feel. We have all read about liberalization in 1991. But in all honesty, I doubt many people understand the bigger picture by looking at liberalization along with the end of the "License Raj" and India's foreign policy at the time. With all these things placed in perspective, Mr Baru tries to give PV his due.

Rightly so I feel. Especially given the way the Congress mistreated him and relegated him to a side-note in its chapters. A very notable quote in the book sums it up - "It is a sad commentary on this nation of ours that we do not know who our real heroes are and do not know how to honour them." What is shameful is that even in his death, he was denied a rightful place alongside other leaders of the country in Delhi. Only in 2015 was a memorial built for PV at Ekta Sthal.

Besides talking about PV's reform measures for the Indian economy, the book also showcases how PV gave the Indian National Congress its last chance at democracy. They had a real shot at breaking away from its feudal mindset and dynastic politics with PV at the helm. We've all seen the aftermath of this. PV was made a scapegoat for Babri and the Congress lost its golden chance at truly becoming an independent, meritocratic setup and sunk into the sycophantic throes of a feudal family-owned business. One wonders what would have happened if PV had managed to free the Congress back in the 90s from the clutches of "The Family".

Overall, a thought provoking book.

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