Hyderabad, Dec 31 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Monday described former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao as a "great son of India" who will be remembered as the father of second generation economic reforms and for providing leadership to the nation at a very critical juncture.
Delivering the P.V. Narasimha Rao memorial lecture here, he paid rich tributes to the former Prime Minister saying the country is today reaping the benefits of his bold decision to initiate economic reforms.
The president's remarks are seen as a belated attempt by the ruling Congress party to recognize the contributions of Narasimha Rao, who was prime minister from 1991 to 1996. He died in 2004 at age 83.
The Congress has always tried to avoid Narasimha Rao's political legacy for the controversies during his regime, especially the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
The president said that PV, as the veteran leader was popularly known, would also be remembered for political sagacity and far-sightedness which he displayed in the formation of the government after the 1991 elections despite the Congress not getting a clear mandate.
Mukherjee heaped praise on the late leader saying "the marvelous selection of Manmohan Singh, not a traditional political activist, as finance minister at that crucial team speaks of the political sagacity of the man.
"He recognized that it would not be an easy task for a normal political activist to implement the far-reaching economic reforms. Today we have forgotten the depth of economic crisis...
"It is not possible today to imagine what economic situation prevailed in 1991. Foreign exchange reserves came down to just one billion dollars, worth two weeks imports. The budget could not be passed in the Lok Sabha and a vote on account was taken for two months.
"He used to say the Indian electorate have given a mandate with limitations. They gave the mandate to rule but told us to carry the people with us.
"Therefore he had to build consensus but wherever he found it is necessary in the larger interest of the nation and country to do what is proper, he did not hesitate."
Recalling his first meeting with PV in the 1970s when he (Mukherjee) was a junior minister in Indira Gandhi's government, he said the first thing which struck him was PV's political sagacity, his very comprehensive ideas on most complex problems and how to resolve them.
"He had his ideas of economic reforms. It was not out of blue these ideas came to him. In the 1991 election manifesto which we drafted, you will find his prints and indications of economic reforms," he noted.
Mukherjee also gave credit to PV for giving a new turn to India's foreign policy as the architect of look east policy.
"His contribution to foreign policy which he turned as Look East policy in the context of economic reforms paid us rich dividends today," said the president.
The president also lauded the late prime minister for contributing to overcoming terrorism problem in Punjab.
Describing Rao as a multi-faceted personality, Mukherjee said that with his mastery of 16 languages including Hindi, he had no difficulty in communication with Hindi-speaking north India.
In the prepared text, Mukherjee noted that PV had a unique functioning style.
"He understood the virtue of patience, and depending on the exigencies of the situation, he was ready to wait till he achieved consensus. When he decided to refrain from acting, it was with a singular purpose.
"To quote him: 'When I don't make a decision, it is not that I don't think about it. I think about it and make a decision not to make a decision.'
"But when it came to matters of administration and governance, his decision making abilities were writ large in the speed and decisive manner in which they were implemented," the president added.