Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh were among the handful of leaders who paid tributes to former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao on his 95th birth anniversary on Tuesday.
As the Congress maintained a guarded distance from Rao’s memory, the BJP closed in on another icon from the grand old party who is not from the Nehru-Gandhi clan.
While Modi paid tribute to Rao in his first tweet of the day, Dr Singh -- who served as Rao’s finance minister as part of the team that is best known for ushering in economic liberalisation quarter of a century ago -- kept his annual date with the commemoration that is held every year at Andhra Bhawan (now Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Bhawan). He paid his former boss a silent obeisance by offering rose petals to his garlanded portrait at a programme to commemorate Rao as the “Architect of vibrant India” in a less-than-half full auditorium. Like every year, Singh did not speak from the podium. He sat in the front row with Rao’s family and left.
Union ministers Suresh Prabhu and Bandaru Dattareya also turned up and paid tributes to India’s ninth prime minister. Other Congress leaders were conspicuous in their absence at the low-key commemoration organised by the Telangana government and Rao’s family. Among them, former Indian Youth Congress president and long-time Rao confidante MS Bitta. “He had to go to Allahabad. Who can be a bigger Congressman than Dr Manmohan Singh. He probably represents his entire party,” VP Prabhakar Rao, Narasimha Rao’s son told HT.
The Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road in New Delhi showed no signs of celebrating the birth anniversary of the party’s former president.
“Tributes to Shri PV Narasimha Rao on his birth anniversary. He led India at a crucial time & his leadership was both notable & vital,” PM Modi’s tweet said.
Senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot were among the few from Rao’s party who tweeted praise for him. “Remembering Narasimha Raoji on his birth anniversary. He steered the country in very challenging times and played a key role in nation building,” Patel said in his tweet.