P. V. Narasimha Rao (28-Jun-1921)
Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao (popularly known as P.V.) (28 June 1921 – 23 December 2004) was an Indian lawyer and politician who served as the Prime Minister of India (1991–1996). His ascendancy to the prime ministership was politically significant in that he was the first holder of this office from non-Hindi-speaking south India. He led an important administration, overseeing a major economic transformation and several home incidents affecting national security of India. Rao, who held the Industries portfolio, was personally responsible for the dismantling of the Licence Raj, as this came under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. He is often referred to as the "Father of Indian Economic Reforms". Future prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh continued the economic reform policies pioneered by Rao's government. Rao accelerated the dismantling of the License Raj, reversing the socialist policies of Rajiv Gandhi's government. He employed Dr. Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister to embark on historic economic transition. With Rao's mandate, Dr. Manmohan Singh launched India's globalisation angle of the reforms that implemented the International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies to rescue the almost bankrupt nation from economic collapse. Rao was also referred to as Chanakya for his ability to steer tough economic and political legislation through the parliament at a time when he headed a minority government.
According to Natwar Singh, "Unlike Nehru, his knowledge of Sanskrit was profound. Nehru had a temper, PV a temperament. His roots were deep in the spiritual and religious soil of India. He did not need to "Discover India". 11th President of India APJ Abdul Kalam described Rao as a "patriotic statesman who believed that the nation is bigger than the political system". Kalam acknowledged that Rao in fact asked him to get ready for nuclear tests in 1996 but they were not carried out as government at center got changed due to 1996 general election. The tests were later conducted by Vajpayee-led NDA government. In fact Rao briefed Vajpayee on nuclear plans.
Rao's term as Prime Minister was an eventful one in India's history. Besides marking a paradigm shift from the industrialising, mixed economic model of Jawaharlal Nehru to a market driven one, his years as Prime Minister also saw the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a major right-wing party, as an alternative to the Indian National Congress which had been governing India for most of its post-independence history. Rao's term also saw the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh when BJP's Kalyan Singh was CM which triggered one of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in the country since its independence. Rao died in 2004 of a heart attack in New Delhi. He was cremated in Hyderabad. He was a versatile personality with interests in a variety of subjects (other than politics) such as literature and computer software (including computer programming). He spoke 17 languages.