Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi have written congratulatory letters to the Telangana unit of the party for organising a year-long celebration on the birth centenary of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who was born in Andhra Pradesh decades before Telangana was created.
The letters by the Gandhis are significant and rare as Mr Rao was known to have had frosty ties with the Gandhis for the most part of the 90s, starting from the time when he became Prime Minister in 1991 - he was the first leader outside of the Nehru-Gandhi family to last a full-term as Prime Minister.
"After a long career in state and national politics he became Prime Minister of India at a time of grave economic crisis. Through his bold leadership, our country was able to overcome many challenges successfully. The Union Budget of July 24, 1991 and paved the way for the economic transformation of our country," Sonia Gandhi said in the letter.
This is the first time Sonia Gandhi is publicly acknowledging the contribution of Mr Rao and praising him, prompted by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's attempt to appropriate the former Prime Minister's legacy. Mr Rao remained a committed nationalist and did not support a separate Telangana.
Mr Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh, who was Finance Minister in 1991, boosted India's economy with import tariff cuts, less taxes, more foreign investments and other measures that eventually led to liberalisation of the economy, whose results were seen towards the end of the millennium when the country's growth skyrocketed.
However, Mr Rao's political career during his Prime Ministership that lasted till 1996 was not entirely smooth sailing with the Congress party. Critics have said divisions in the party that led to the defeat of the Congress in the 1996 general elections were pinned on Mr Rao.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya by right-wing groups in December 1992 also happened when Mr Rao was Prime Minister. His critics have on hindsight pointed out Mr Rao could have taken decisions to stop the cataclysmic incident.
The 1996 national election led to a hung parliament and the Congress was seen to blame Mr Rao for the bad performance. The Congress was decimated in many of its strongholds in Uttar Pradesh.
Under the leadership of Former PM #PVNarasimhaRao & the then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, India unleashed an era of reforms to take our economy & society to new heights. Ever since, we've seen a booming growth in terms of GDP as well as in the living standards of people. pic.twitter.com/ZsMrxY3Ary— Congress (@INCIndia) July 24, 2020
"On this day (July 24), India embarked on a bold new path of economic transformation. Shri PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh played a pivotal role in ushering in the era of liberalisation. I hope this event will revive interest among our youth to learn about India's growth story and the remarkable individuals who made this possible," Mr Gandhi said in his letter today.
Mr Rao died at 83 in 2004.