Half Lion: How P. V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India

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Book Review: Half Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao transformed India by Vinay Sitapati. Published in Viking by Penguin Books India 2016.

Around the time when the family of P.V. Narasimha Rao was commemorating the former Prime Minister’s 95th birth anniversary and India was marking 25 years of economic liberalisation; a young scholar, Vinay Sitapati, launched his debut book ‘Half Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India,’ in New Delhi.

The book is a biography, that has given Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao his rightful place in the history of India as its ‘principal architect of economic reforms,’ and simultaneously faults the view, propagated by the Indian National Congress (INC), that he was a conspirator in the Babri Masjid demolition.
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Architect of India's economic reforms

Rao emerges as a man who provided transformational leadership to India at a time of deep financial crisis and Sitapati rightfully credits Rao for being the ‘principal architect of India's economic reforms.’ The Congress party, although, has assiduously given credit for the 1991 reforms to Dr. Manmohan Singh, Rao’s finance minister and to Rajiv Gandhi, a former prime minister from the Nehru-Gandhi family. The author provides ‘behind-the-scenes details of how Rao neutralised criticism to the radical economic reforms both from sections of the opposition and from within his own party.’

21 June to 24 July 1991 witnessed a revolution in India’s economic liberation — both the crisis and its response were some years in the making. ‘I didn’t know it was this bad…’ was Rao’s reaction to the briefing on the balance of payments crisis, the unprecedented devaluation of the rupee and the mortgaging of gold bullion, when being updated by his Cabinet Secretary; a day before he would be sworn in as India’s tenth prime
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The economy was so wrecked that India was pawning its family jewellery. There have been crises in 1965-67, 1973-75 and 1979-81. None, however, was more alarming than what India faced in 1991.’ To mend the situation, India needed ‘big bang’ reforms – ‘it needed fiscal discipline, dismantle trade barriers, and remove licenses, permits and anti-monopoly laws that bound domestic

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