Outsider in his party

Sadly for Rao, his affair with the party was one-sided. The party did not reciprocate this goodwill. For the Congress, he was an outsider. He is not recognised, acknowledged and remembered, and is probably spoken of only in whispers. He serves as their punching bag, to be blamed for all the wrongs. All this after he led the party and the government through one of the most turbulent periods in post-Independence India.

Why does the Congress want to bury Rao? As leader of the Congress and as PM, Rao was probably more concerned with achieving goals and showing results than with how those goals were reached. He knew that he had neither the luxury of time nor the support of friends who were willing to go the distance. Rao, therefore, did not tell us about his dreams or of his pet policy aims, but doggedly tried to set right what he thought was wrong. His single-minded pursuit of often unstated ends, without concern for the means employed, was not necessarily new. Indira Gandhi had been ruthless in her pursuit of partisan ends.

Party organisational literature may provide us with some clues as to why the Congress today wants us to believe that there was no Narasimha Rao. There is always a certain tussle between different elements in any party, especially between the party in public office and the party central office. Scholars of the Congress party identify three distinctive relationship patterns. In the first phase, the Nehru era, the party central office and the party in public office were distinct. The two elements respected each other and worked almost in tandem, with the party in public office playing a lead role. This relationship continued till the mid-1960s.

In the second phase, the difference between the elements collapsed. Indira Gandhi, who controlled both the government and the party, reportedly famously quipped, "Where is the party? I am the party." Not only did she inaugurate the personality cult, but she also promoted her family. With Rajiv Gandhi taking over, the party and the family fused.

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