'He told senior journalists a few days after the Babri Masjid demolition, 'Jo hua theek hua. Maine isliye hone diya ki BJP ki rajniti hamesha ke liye khatam ho jaye.'
The fallout from decisions lives on long after the person.
And in the case of prime ministers, the fallout also leaves a mark on history.
Veteran journalist Neerja Chowdhury, who has tracked the ebbs and flows of political tides in the country, has just published a likely best-seller How Prime Ministers Decide.
In the concluding segment of an engaging two-part interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Chowdhury weighs the good, bad and ugly of the P V Narasimha Rao, Atali Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh regimes.
- Part 1 of the Interview: ''Mera baap sant tha, main nahin hoon'
P V Narasimha Rao: The good decisions
Rao came to power at the head of a minority government. When he took over, India was facing an economic crisis. Faced with a balance of payments crisis, he took the decision to open up the economy, and go for structural reforms.
Major economic decisions were taken by Rao and it was only later that Dr Manmohan Singh, his finance minister, came into his own.
Rao also calmed down the inflamed passions in the country because of the Mandal-Mandir politics. Punjab was also burning, and there was turbulence in Jammu and Kashmir.
He had to deal with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of a unipolar world. He reached out to Central Asian Republics and initiated a Look East policy for greater cooperation with South East Asian countries.
He also recognised Israel, and that too when Palestine leader Yasser Arafat was in India, having informed him about his decision.
Sharad Pawar was asked at my book launch who he felt was India's best prime minister. He replied, 'P V Narasimha Rao.'
Rao was erudite, understood India, and was an experienced administrator.
P V Narasimha Rao: The bad decisions
He allowed the Babri Masjid to be demolished -- a decision that shaped the politics of the three decades that followed.
He told a group of senior journalists who saw him a few days after the demolition, 'You think I don't know politics. I was born in rajniti and I have only been doing politics till today. Jo hua theek hua. Maine isliye hone diya ki Bharatiya Janata Party ki rajniti hamesha ke liye khatam ho jaye.'
He himself hoped to build a temple in Ayodhya. A trust was also registered, but in 1995 he decided he would do it when he came to power again (in 1996).
After the Babri Masjid was demolished, the temple issue went on the backburner during Rao's term.
But Rao did not take into account how much the Muslim psyche was hurt by the demolition.
Muslims felt that the Constitution and the Indian State had not been able to protect them and their rights.
The minorities in India feel very insecure today -- a process that began after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
His failure to protect the Babri Masjid was Narasimha Rao's biggest failure.
He could have imposed President's rule, which he ruled out, not just for legal reasons but also because he would have calculated that it would give the BJP a chance to step up its Mandir movement.
He could have called in the Indian Army to save the Babri Masjid, and this was what V P Singh had suggested to him.
The Congress lost Muslim support, though they came back to the party fold later.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid troubled Narasimha Rao till the end. And it troubled his party.
When he died, the gates of the Akbar Road Congress headquarters in New Delhi were shut when his body arrived there.
Congress leaders were not allowed to pay their homage to a leader who had served the party for half a century and more.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The good decisions
His major decision was to go in for the nuclear test in 1998.
P V Narasimha Rao almost went in for the test, but got cold feet when information about it leaked to the Americans.
Indira Gandhi tested in 1974 and again she wanted to test in 1982, but she too got cold feet.
She told the scientists, 'We do not want our skulls to be broken,' indicating that India would face heavy sanctions once again, as it had done in 1974.
Though Vajpayee is credited with nuclear tests in 1998, he never thought it was his major contribution. He wanted to bring about a breakthrough on the Kashmir issue -- and forge a new relationship with Pakistan.
He tried his best with Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf (who were ruling Pakistan at the time), but success eluded him.
He accelerated the information technology and communication revolution that was started by Rajiv Gandhi.
He managed to be a moderate in a right wing party -- and believed India could be run only by consensus.
What he 'was' rather than what he 'did' -- remains his enduring legacy.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The bad decisions
Vajpayee was known for his flip-flops on issues and some saw him as a 'clever careerist'.
On Ayodhya he changed his stand repeatedly.
He also changed his view that Narendra Modi should step down as Gujarat CM after the 2002 violence.
And earlier he flip-flopped on India going nuclear -- he was a peacenik in the fifties, a nuclear hawk in the sixties, and he voted against India going nuclear in 1979 as external affairs minister under Morarji Desai, and then opted to test in 1998.
If there was pressure on him, he took one step backward and then two steps forward.
People tended to forgive him for they saw his flip-flops as an attempt to deflect pressure from the hawks in the party and the RSS, reinforcing his image as a moderate in a hardline party. His skill lay in being able to do the contradictions.
Vajpayee was not a hands-on prime minister. He did not go into the nitty-gritty of decisions and left it to his principal secretary Brajesh Mishra -- the most powerful bureaucrat India has had -- who was called the 'de facto PM' during Vajpayee's rule.
Dr Manmohan Singh; The good decisions
Dr Singh carried forward economic liberalisation and he forged a strategic relationship with the US.
He got the nuclear deal done which ended India's nuclear untouchability, and enabled it to go for nuclear commerce.
For 39 months, Dr Singh did not give up and he used every trick in the book to ensure the deal went through.
The Left parties withdrew their support to his government. But showing political savvy, he mustered an alternative support in the Samajwadi Party -- initially, it was opposing the deal -- and he brought them around.
The SP voted with him and ensured that his government survived in Parliament -- and the nuclear deal went through.
This technocrat prime minister showed a political acumen few thought he possessed.
Apart from national compulsions on both sides, which guided the moves of both India and the US, somewhere Dr Manmohan Singh also wanted to demonstrate through the nuclear deal that he was his own man -- as I have written in the book.
Dr Manmohan Singh: The bad decisions
The savvy or resolve he displayed on the nuclear deal, he did not display in any other decision he made.
He shared power with Sonia Gandhi, who had transferred the mandate to him, when her son Rahul Gandhi told her that he would do something drastic if she went ahead and became PM.
For he had seen his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv being assassinated, and felt his mother too would be killed.
The Right to Food, Right to Work, Right to Information by the UPA government were important decisions made by the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi. And Dr Singh went along with them.
Sonia Gandhi was half prime minister and took all the political decisions, though he was the prime minister ruling the country.
It was a difficult coalitional model, but Dr Singh could have pushed the envelope more. For Sonia Gandhi needed him as much as he needed her.
In the second term of UPA rule there were many corruption charges against his government.
Every Cabinet minister was running his department like a personal fiefdom -- with ministers gunning for each other. Like, Pranab Mukherjee's office was found to be bugged.
In September 2013, Rahul Gandhi at an impromptu press conference tore up the Cabinet ordinance on convicted politicians.
Rahul vetoed the ordinance and Dr Singh had to bow in to his demands.
Many felt that Dr Singh should have resigned at that time -- that was arguably the weakest moment of his premiership.