The renewed focus on former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s political legacy, marked by a push for conferring Bharat Ratna on him, has created friction between the two long-standing political allies in Telangana—the ruling Telangana Rashtra Smaithi (TRS) and All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
The AIMIM, a formidable political player headed by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, has boycotted the state assembly proceedings on a day when the House passed a resolution, urging the Centre to confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on Narasimha Rao, a widely respected ‘Telangana Bidda’ (Son of Telangana) who rose from humble beginnings in rural Telangana.
Barring AIMIM, which has seven MLAs in the 119-member Assembly, all parties—Congress, BJP and TRS—supported the resolution.
The chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who piloted the resolution, sought to place PV on the same pedestal as the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Only two leaders have truly scripted India’s modern history. One was Nehru, the architect of modern India and the second one was our own Narasimha Rao who was the maker of global India,” KCR, as the TRS supremo is popularly known, said.
The Telangana government has also proposed that the former PM’s portrait and statue be installed in the Parliament house.
Why does Majlis detest PV?
KCR’s push to invoke PV’s legacy and blend it with Telangana pride has met with an unexpected hurdle. The move has, unwittingly, ruffled the feathers of his trusted ally.
The AIMIM holds the former Prime Minister responsible for the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992. The party has also disassociated itself from the year-long celebrations being organised by the Telangana government to mark the birth centenary of Narasimha Rao.
“We have decided to boycott the Assembly and Council proceedings. Our party cannot support the resolution and discussion on centenary celebrations of Narasimha Rao,” the party said in a message.
The party alleges that PV’s complacent approach in dealing with the situation in Ayodhya in December 1992 had led to the demolition of the Masjid.
“As prime minister, he failed to protect the Masjid from demolition and his communal politics is well-known,” the party tweeted.
In fact, the party had even refused to express sympathies when the assembly of the combined Andhra Pradesh introduced a condolence motion following the death of PV in December 2004.
However, sources in the AIMIM say that its stand on PV and his brand of politics was well known and that its opposition to conferring Bharat Ratna on him or celebrating birth centenary would not affect the ‘friendly relationship’ with the TRS.
The AIMIM, which has strong presence in parts of old Hyderabad and in some districts like Nizamabad, Adilabad and Medak, has been steadfastly supporting the TRS and its policies.
For TRS, the continued support of its ally and the Muslim community, which constitutes nearly 13 percent of Telangana’s population, is crucial, particularly at a time when the BJP is upping its game to consolidate its hold in the state.
Appropriating PV’s legacy
By appropriating PV’s legacy, the TRS leadership is sending an oblique message to Congress, mocking the grand old party for not giving the veteran leader his due.
In PV, the TRS sees a fiercely independent leader who defied the diktats of the dynasty, took his own decisions to steer the party and the nation in the difficult times and suffered humiliation at the hands of the coterie.
After completely decimating the Congress in the state, the TRS is now keen on owning the political legacy of PV, a self-made “Telangana Bidda” whose accomplishments are held in high esteem among the people of the two Telugu states.
There is a popular perception that despite his immense contribution to transforming the economic landscape of the country through a set of bold reforms, PV was not given the pride of place by the Congress leadership. PV died on December 23, 2004 when Congress was in power at the Centre and in the combined Andhra Pradesh.
Despite requests from his family, the Congress top leadership refused to perform his final rites in New Delhi. Instead, it insisted that the body be sent to Hyderabad for cremation without any delay.
“PV never got his due as Congress had become so servile to the Nehru-Gandhi family that they were not willing to give credit to an outsider like him despite his achievements,” says Sanjaya Baru, journalist and author of the book ‘1991: How PV Narasimha Rao Made History’.
Portrait in assembly
The assembly also resolved to request the Centre to install a statue and portrait of the former PM in the Parliament annexe, besides renaming the Hyderabad Central University after him. A portrait of PV, who had also served as CM of the combined AP, will be installed in the assembly complex. The state government has announced events throughout the year to mark the birth centenary.
KCR credited the former PM with introducing bold economic reforms and paving the way for making India one of the largest economies in the world.
“He led a minority government for a full five-year term and also introduced revolutionary economic reforms in the country. He opened gates for privatisation and created employment for scores of Indians,” the chief minister said.
Hailing from Karimnagar district in Telangana, PV had earned a niche for himself in the state and national politics as a scholar-politician, a polyglot and an astute strategist. He had served Congress at various levels and became the Chief Minister of the combined Andhra Pradesh in 1971. He rose to national prominence, held several key portfolios including External Affairs and Home and was credited with drafting the new education policy.