President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday paid glowing tributes to the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and said history would remember him for providing leadership to the nation at a very critical juncture.

Delivering the inaugural ‘P.V. Narasimha Rao Memorial Lecture’ organised by Hyderabad Media House here, Mr. Mukherjee said the former Prime Minister showed the courage of conviction in leading the nation on the right path of reforms against the heaviest odds. He was one of the few leaders who attracted admirers of different political hues.

Political sagacity

Lauding Rao’s political sagacity and far-sightedness, the President described him as the father of the second generation economic reforms. Describing as a “marvellous selection” Rao’s appointment of Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister at a crucial time, Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that he departed from the usual practice of choosing political heavyweights for the post. The two together took the nation on a path that made India an economic powerhouse which the world admired. Recalling the precarious economic situation in 1991, Mr. Mukherjee said the forex reserves were just sufficient to meet two weeks imports.

He credited Rao with giving a new turn to India’s foreign policy, and said the ‘Look East policy’ launched then paid rich dividends in the economic sphere.

Rao gave importance to strengthening relationship with ASEAN as an entity. From a sectoral dialogue partner and a full dialogue partner, India’s engagement culminated in Summit-level partnership with ASEAN.

Rao brought peace to Punjab and held elections, and a popular government under Beant Singh was installed.

As Congress president, Rao introduced elections for Congress Working Committee members although the All-India Congress Committee was ready to pass a resolution allowing him to nominate them. Describing him as a multifaceted personality, the President said Rao had command over many languages.

Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah and Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy paid rich tributes to Rao. Vani Devi, daughter of the former Prime Minister, and K. Ramachandra Murthy, chief editor, The Hans India, an English daily, spoke.