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Stood up by Rahul Gandhi, Narasimha Rao’s son excuses Congress snub, cites ‘security reasons’

Congress leader Rahul in Hyderabad paid homage to his grandmother Indira Gandhi but skipped visiting Narasimha Rao’s statue just a few metres away, kicking up a storm in Hyderabad.

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Hyderabad:  Congress leader Rahul Gandhi couldn’t visit the statue of former prime minister Narasimha Rao because of “security reasons”, the late leader’s son told ThePrint. 

Rao’s son P.V. Prabhakar Rao told ThePrint that he went to the spot at Necklace Road, where his father’s statue stands a few feet away from former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s, after he was told that Rahul would visit the spot.  

“A few leaders from Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee invited me Tuesday morning to be present at my father’s statue. They told me that Rahul Gandhi would garland P.V. Narasimha Rao’s statue. I did go but that did not happen,” Prabhakar told ThePrint. “I was told [that] due to security reasons, Rahul could not come to the statue, [and that] the exit was planned in another way.”

The statue stands on the banks of Hussain Sagar and was unveiled in June 2021 as part of the Telangana government’s year-long centenary celebrations for Rao’s birthday. 

Prabhakar, the youngest son of Narasimha Rao, also said that senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Digvijay Singh called on him and “conveyed his apologies”, adding that “Rahul Gandhi also felt bad about not being able to make a stop at the statue”.

“One will obviously feel bad if such a thing happens, but I leave it to their wisdom as to why Rahul Gandhi didn’t come to P.V. Narasimha Rao’s statue, The leaders also told me how the original plan of the Bharat Jodo Yatra for that day didn’t have RG’s visit scheduled to my father’s statue,” he said, adding that it was also dark by the time of Rahul’s visit to his grandmother’s statue. 

Rahul had kicked up a political row Tuesday when he paid homage to his late grandmother Indira and even addressed a corner meeting, but skipped Rao’s statue just a few metres away.  The Gandhi scion is currently in Telangana leg of the Congress party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. 

The Telangana unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised Rahul for ignoring Rao’s statue. 

“Rahul Gandhi paid homage to the statue of Indira Gandhi on Necklace Road and not to the nearby statue of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Why not pay homage to Rao’s statue? Is this the culture of Congress?” BJP’s National OBC Morcha president K. Lakshman said, adding that Rahul should apologise to “the people of Telangana”.

“This shows disrespect towards their own leaders,” BJP leader N.V. Subhash — also Narasimha Rao’s grandson — said. 

Rao was India’s tenth prime minister who’s credited with introducing liberal reforms in the country in the early 90s.  

ThePrint reached Telangana Congress chief Revanth Reddy’s office and Congress’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh via text for their comments. This report will be updated when a response is received.

Also Read: Narasimha Rao to Narendra Modi — New book tracks journey of India’s economic reforms since 1991

Soured ties

The relationship between the Gandhis and Rao has seen its share of ups and downs. 

Rao had nearly retired from active politics when former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991. Rajiv’s widow Sonia then chose Rao to lead the newly-elected Congress government. 

Soon, however, fissures appeared between Rao and Sonia over a number of issues, including investigations into the Bofors gun scam. Sonia was also reportedly upset with Rao over the economic reforms that he introduced and also his decision to take an independent course.

Things finally came to a head in 1995, when Sonia was reportedly upset at the “slow pace” of investigations into her husband’s assassination. Interactions between the two became fewer, as did Rao’s visits to 10 Janpath — the Gandhis’ residence. 

Rao’s tenure as prime minister from 1991 to 1996 was also rife with several controversies, the most glaring among them being the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. 

After the Congress rout in 1996, Rao was forced to step down as Congress chief and was ostracised by the party for many years. 

So deep went the bitterness that when he died in 2004, his body wasn’t allowed inside the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road. Instead, it was kept on the pavement outside the gates, where both Sonia and Manmohan Singh, who was then the prime minister, paid their homage to the departed leader. 

Several political parties have since criticised the Congress over its treatment of Rao. At a book launch in July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of having failed to acknowledge Rao’s contribution to the country.   

Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s 2020 year-long centenary celebration of Rao’s birth anniversary was also seen as a political message to the Congress. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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