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Narasimha Rao's Bharat Ratna: Recognising legacy beyond politics | Opinion

This move challenges the traditional narrative surrounding the Congress party, particularly the Nehru-Gandhi family, and their purported reluctance to recognise leaders outside their 'favoured circle'

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Jasleen Kaur
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PTC Web Desk: Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao's recent posthumous recognition with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, has ignited conversations not just about his legacy, but also about the intricate political implications entwined with this decision. Serving as the Prime Minister of India from 1991 to 1996, Rao played a crucial role in navigating the nation through significant economic reforms during a testing period.

Breaking Political Norms

The Narendra Modi-led government's decision to confer the Bharat Ratna on Rao isn't merely a symbolic gesture of appreciation; it resonates with the government's consistent stance of acknowledging talent and leadership irrespective of party lines. This move challenges the traditional narrative surrounding the Congress party, particularly the Nehru-Gandhi family, and their purported reluctance to recognise leaders outside their 'favoured circle'. Prime Minister Modi's emphasis on this aspect at a public meeting in Rao's home state, Telangana, underscores the government's commitment to breaking away from established political norms.

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Unease Within Congress

While the announcement has received positive responses from Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge, it also brings to light the historical unease within the Congress regarding Narasimha Rao's leadership. The former Prime Minister assumed office following the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Despite his noteworthy contributions to economic reforms and shifts in foreign policy, his legacy within the Congress was overshadowed by the contentious demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and internal party disputes.

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Strained Relationships

The complexity of Narasimha Rao's relationship with the Congress leadership is evident in instances where he and Sonia Gandhi did not see eye to eye. The blame for the Congress' loss in the 1996 general election was laid at Rao's feet, further straining their association. Even after his demise, disagreements persisted, notably during the arrangements for his final rites, highlighting enduring tensions between Rao's family and the Congress party.

The Bharat Ratna for Narasimha Rao is more than an acknowledgment of his legacy. As India navigates its political landscape, this decision prompts reflections on the complexities of political legacies and the potential for recognition to bridge historical divides.

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