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'He pulled India out of difficult times'
Onkar Singh | December 23, 2004 23:29 IST
Last Updated: December 23, 2004 23:37 IST
Former prime minister I K Gujral speaks about his old friend and predecessor, P V Narasimha Rao, who passed away on December 23, 2004.
"I am very saddened by the death of my old friend and former prime minister of India Shri P V Narasimha Rao. He was a patriot to the core. He began his career as a freedom fighter when he was a young man.
There have been very few people in the country who have held so many positions with such remarkable dignity. He held several portfolios as minister in Andhra Pradesh in various governments. He went on to become the chief minister of the state.
He moved over to the Centre and held several positions in the cabinet as minister.
Eventually he went on to become prime minister of the country.
His outstanding qualities were his intellect and his courage to take initiatives. When he became prime minister, the economic situation in the country was very bad. We were about the default.
He not only had the courage but also had the vision to change the established line. He started reforms to put the economy back on the rails.
Many within and outside the party criticised him for taking bold decisions. It is easy to perceive change but it is difficult to implement it.
Of course Dr Manmohan Singh was his very valued advisor. But it was the visision and courage of Rao sahib which mattered and he was able to pull the country out of a difficult situation.
In the post-emergency period of Indira Gandhi, there was a time when the Soviet Union attacked Afganistan. I was then Indian ambassador to Moscow and was closely associated with Indian foreign policy matters.
It was a tough task strike a balance between ties with the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States. It was a tight rope walk that Rao pulled off with vision and courage.
If you look at the Babri mosque tragedy, you will see it was not his fault. It would be wrong to say that he was not in favour of defending the mosque.
But he took some people's word, which he should not have. Since the case is still sub judice I will not say much about it.
But I can tell you that it was not his fault.
He was the first Congress prime minister who did not come from the Nehru clan. He was able to complete his term despite stiff resistance from some quarters within the party.
That itself was a great achievement.
In his death I have lost a personal friend and India a statesman."
(I K Gujral spoke to Onkar Singh in New Delhi)
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