Narasimha Narasimha Rao

(b. 1921)

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(b. 28 June 1921).

Prime Minister of India 1991–6

Early career

Born in the Karimnagar district (Andhra Pradesh), he studied law and graduated with an LLB. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1945, and distinguished himself through his loyalty to the Nehru dynasty consisting of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi respectively. A member of the state assembly of Andhra Pradesh (1955–77), he was Chief Minister of that state in 1971–3. After serving as general secretary to the Congress (I) (1974–7), he entered the lower chamber, the Lok Sabha, in 1977. After Indira Gandhi's re‐election in 1980, he was Minister for External Affairs (1980–4). Under Rajiv Gandhi he served as Minister of Home Affairs (1984), for Defence (1985), for Human Resource and Health and Family Welfare (1986–8), and for External Affairs (1988–9). He retired from politics after the electoral defeat of 1989. As perhaps the party's best‐known and least controversial figure, the colourless Rao came to lead the party on 20 June 1991 after Rajiv's assassination.

In office

Following his party's election victory of 26 June 1991, Narasimha Rao surprised most observers by staying in office for a full term, despite the fragility of his government and the general unpopularity of his economic reforms. These included liberalization and a reduction in state subsidies, in order to reduce the country's large debt. This did yield considerable economic growth, averaging over 5 per cent per year, though it benefited mainly the more prosperous middle classes rather than India's poverty‐stricken masses. Rao became increasingly embroiled in corruption scandals, for which he was brought to court after his election defeat to Deve Gowda in 1996. In 2000, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for bribing four Members of Parliament in 1993 to support him in a vote of no confidence, but the sentence was later overturned on appeal.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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