Ministership: Rao approached IG Patel twice

Twice the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao approached economist I G Patel to join his cabinet and the second time, it was as a “back-up” if his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh resigned.

This is revealed in a new book ‘1991: How P V Narasimha Rao Made History’ by journalist-academician Sanjaya Baru, who was also media adviser to Singh when he became Prime Minister in 2004.

Patel, who was close Morarji Desai in 1970s and earned global reputation, was Rao’s first choice as Finance Minister but when the Baroda-settled economist refused, he turned to Singh, who accepted it.

The name of Patel once again came to Rao’s mind when P Chidambaram, the handling Commerce Ministry, submitted his resignation in July 1992 over allegations of financial impropriety believing that Rao would reject his offer. However, Rao had other plans and accepted the resignation.


“It is only after IG and PV (Rao) passed away that I learnt that PV had approached IG a second time, inviting him again to join his council of ministers,” Baru writes. Rao’s close friend and journalist Kalyani Shankar believes the then Prime Minister wanted to offer Commerce portfolio to Patel after Chidambaram’s resignation.

“On the other hand, PV’s aide and media adviser (PVRK) Prasad does not rule out the possibility that PV wanted another economist in the government as a back-up just in case Singh chose to quit, unable to deal with political attacks against him from within the Congress,” the book says.

Singh had at least thrice offered to quit following attacks from within Congress. Third time, Rao sent Prasad to get Singh to withdraw his resignation saying, “Dr Manmohan Singh is allergic to politicians. That is why I cannot send a politician to persuade him.”

Coming after Jairam Ramesh’s ‘To the Brink and Back’ and Vinay Sitapati’s ‘Half Lion: How P V Narasimha Rao Transformed India’ on Rao’s life and tenure as Prime Minister, the new book tries to tell the story of economic reforms through the year 1991. It also talks about the problems faced by previous government under Chandra Shekhar.

Referring to the downfall of Chandra Shekhar government, Baru feels that Chandrasekhar stumped Rajiv Gandhi with his resignation in 1991 after Congress upped ante over the ‘snooping’ incident.

Rajiv requested Sharad Pawar to intervene on his behalf and get Chandra Sekhar to withdraw his resignation. Chandra Sekhar told Pawar, “Go back and tell him that Chandra Shekhar does not change his mind three times a day.”

Sep 26, 2016

For More Reading

MMS: Whose Choice?

On Rao’s unpublished article Liberalisation and the Public Sector

Narasimha Rao’s IB operations !!!


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