Administration Who's Who

V. Narasimha Rao

V. Narasimha Rao

Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao (28 June 1921 – 23 December 2004) was an Indian lawyer and politician who worked as the 9th Prime Minister of India from 1991 to 1996. His ascendancy to the prime ministership was politically significant in that he was the first holder of this office from a non-Hindi-speaking region, belonging to the southern part of India. He guided an important administration, overseeing a major economic transformation and several home incidents affecting the national security of India.

Early life and family

PV Narasimha Rao had a humble social entity. He was born in a Niyogi Brahmin family in a village Laknepalli, Narsampet Mandal, in Warangal District, now in Telangana, but later adopted and brought to Vangara village of Bheemadevarapalli mandal of Karimnagar district in Telangana, then part of Hyderabad State, when Rao was three years old. His father, Pamulaparthi Sitarama Rao, and mother, Pamulaparthi Rukmini (Rukminamma), came from agrarian families. Popularly known as PV, he accomplished part of his primary education in Katkuru village of Bheemdevarapalli Mandal in Karimnagar district by staying in his relative Gabbeta Radhakishan Rao’s house and studying for his Bachelor’s degree in the Arts college at the Osmania University. P.V. Narasimha Rao was a portion of Vande Mataram movement in the late 1930s in the Hyderabad state. After that, he went on to Hislop College, now under Nagpur University, where he completed a Master’s degree in law.

Rao’s mother tongue was Telugu, and he had a wonderful command of Marathi. Add on to this eight other Indian languages (Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu), he spoke English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German and Persian. Along with his distant cousin Pamulaparthi Sadasiva Rao, Ch. Raja Narendra and Devulapalli Damodar Rao, Rao edited a Telugu weekly magazine called Kakatiya Patrika in the 1940s. Both Rao and Sadasiva Rao contributed articles under the pen-name Jaya-Vijaya.

Narasimha Rao was married to Satyamma Rao, who died in 1970. They blessed three sons and five daughters. His eldest son late P.V. Rangarao was a representative of education minister in Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy’s cabinet and MLA from Hanamakonda Assembly Constituency, in Warangal District for two terms. His second son, Late P.V. Rajeswara Rao, was an in Parliament of the 11th Lok Sabha (15 May 1996 – 4 December 1997) from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency.

Political career

Narasimha Rao was an active freedom fighter during the Indian Independence movement and commenced a full-time politics after independence as a member of the Indian National Congress. His time as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh is well remembered even today for his land reforms and strict implementation of land ceiling acts in Telangana region. President’s rule had to be imposed to counter the Jai Andhra movement at a time of his tenure. He rose to national importance in 1972 for handling several diverse portfolios, most significantly Home, Defence, and Foreign Affairs, in the cabinets of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, it is speculated that Rao was in the running for the post of India’s President along with Zail Singh in 1982.

Rao very almost retired from politics in 1991. It was the assassination of the Congress President Rajiv Gandhi that persuaded him to make a comeback. As the Congress had won the highest number of seats in the 1991 elections, he had an opportunity to head the minority government as Prime Minister. Rao was the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as Prime Minister for five continuous years, the first to hail from the state of Andhra Pradesh, and also the first from southern India.

Since Narsimha had not contested the general elections, he then participated in a by-election in Nandyal to join the parliament. He won from Nandyal with a victory margin of a record 5 lakh (500,000) votes and his win was recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records and he was Prime Minister of India at the time when he was MP from Berhampur, Ganjam, Odisha.

Narsimha cabinet included Sharad Pawar, himself a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s post, as Defence Minister. He also broke a convention by appointing a non-political economist and future prime minister, Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister. He also selected Subramanian Swamy, an Opposition party member as the Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade. This has been the only instance that an Opposition Party member was given a Cabinet rank post by the ruling party. He also sent Opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to represent India in a UN meeting at Geneva.