P.V. Narasimha Rao was sworn in as the ninth prime minister of India exactly 25 years ago. He has since been described as the accidental prime minister. Rao inherited a mess. An economy on the verge of an international default. A society deeply divided on denominational lines. And a foreign policy that needed to change after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Few expected what was to happen in the next five years. Rao backed finance minister Manmohan Singh to launch radical economic reforms. It was under him that the perverse license raj was dismantled. The destruction of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 led to riots across the country, but social stability was established once more. Indian foreign policy was reimagined.
Rao had his critics. But it is now widely accepted in retrospect that he was one of the best prime ministers we’ve had. His memory has been airbrushed out of history by his own party. He deserves more recognition for steering India out of a difficult era.