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Ratings of Indian Prime Ministers
|by Suresh Mandan|
In India very few surveys have been carried out to judge the ratings of the Past and Present Indian Prime Ministers. In the USA, surveys have been carried out at regular intervals and the Presidents have been ranked according to the results of the Poll. The rankings are based on surveys of academic historians and politicals scientists or popular opinions. Some of the parameters for the surveys are achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults.
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and F.D Roosevelt have consistently held the top three positions followed by Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. None of the Presidents after 1948 have occupied any position in the first ten though Dwight Eishenhover has moved to better position (No.12 now) in the last few rankings. None of the popular Presidents like J.F.Kennedy or George W Bush (more unpopular) have occupied any distinctive positions so far in the rankings.
In the Indian context, there have been 15 Prime ministers, which includes more than one term of some PMs and the interim tenures of Gulzari Lal Nanda./A.B Vajpayee.
Jawahar Lal Nehru who was the Prime Minister of India from 15 August 1947 to 27 May 1964 was the longest serving Prime Minister without any interruption followed by his daughter Smt. Indira Gandhi who was the longest Prime Minister but in different tenures.
Jawahar Lal Nehru intiated Five Year plans to increase govt's emphasis on agriculture and industry, launched programmes to build irrigation canals, dams,tried to alleviate poverty and unemployment, established AIMS, ITIs and also some major Steel plants with the help of USSR, Germany and UK. He was a success in the international diplomacy and established the Non aligned movement with the help of Abdul Gamel Nasser of Egypt, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and President Sukarno of Indonesia. It is another matter that all three of them were dictators of some sort and ruled with an iron hand in their own country.
Nehru was a democrat to a great extent with a streak of dictatorship. He brought talent into his Cabinet with people like M.C. Chagla, Chintamani Deshmukh who were non Congressmen. He was not like the Present Congress PMs who did not encourage talent if he or she is not wedded to congress party. Nehru was a socialist (which was something like a fad those days) and depended too much on socialist countries like USSR and China. He paid the price for not looking beyond the wall when the Chinese aggression shocked him in 1962 from which he could never recover.
Nehru in a way started a dynastic rule, by making his daughter the President of the Congress party and also a Union Minister. He was a learned man, a man of letters, a great orator and wanted a good democratic country. But his dependence on people like Krishna Menon and obsession with socialism, non-alignment, panchsheel etc did not stand him in good stead. India lost those vital years of growth, just because the PM at that time was not interested in financial reforms.
He was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, a small frail looking man with a strong will, though there was an interim Prime Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda (27 May - 9 June 1964). Shastri was Prime Minister from 9 June 1964 to 11 Jan 1966. He faced the Indo-Pak war of 1965 with great determination and true grit and took the morale of the Forces to a new height with a slogan "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan". In a way Shastri truly represented Indian values, simple, no western education, practical, honest and a man of integrity. He was the man who accepted the mistakes by resigning from his post as Minister for Railways, a trend which started and ended with him. He started the Green Revolution, established the NDDB and wanted to do much more for the Indian farming but for his untimely death. He would be rated as one of the best Indian PM if opinion Poll is ever conducted in a fair and transparent mode.
Indira Gandhi was the next regular Prime Minister from 24 January 1966 to 24 March 1977 (followed by second tenure from 14 Jan 1980 to 31 Oct 1984). Gulzari Lal Nanda was the interim PM again from 11 Jan to 24 Jan 1966. During her tenure, Indira Gandhi brought about the break up in the party after nationalisation of the banks and stopping privy purses of the Indian rulers. She exhibited true leadership and courage by taking both USA and Pakistan by the Horns in bringing about one of the worst defeats to the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war. Her determination was evident when she toured some of the major countries in the world asking for support against Pakistan's aggressive designs. Her signing of a treaty with USSR was a major landmark, under which she fought the war with Pakistan and was successful in break up of Pakistan and creating Bangladesh. Tactically it was a very good move but looking back now it appears that the creation of Bangladesh has not brought us any major gains and nor inflicted any losses on Pakistan.
Bangladesh Govt's have been hostile to India, oft and on and the people still consider India in an unfavourable way. Pakistan has been able to save so much of her budget which it had to spend on far flung poor East Pakistan then. In her second tenure, Indira Gandhi was struck by tragedy when she lost her son Sanjay Gandhi in an air accident. Her operation Blue Star did not get the desired end, rather it started terrorism in India. Her theory of playing one Politician (Darbara Singh) against another (Giani Zail Singh) was responsible for the creation of Sant Bhinderanwala who became a major threat to her survival.
She was assassinated on Oct 31, 1984. She had leadership qualities, was strong in her planning and execution and perhaps was the only Man in her cabinet but her qualities of envy, revenge, lack of tolerance and judgement did not get her the star ratings in the End. Between her first and second tenure there were two other non-Congress Prime Ministers.
Morarji Desai, a Gandhian of the old mould, was PM from 24 March 1977 to 28 July 1979. He represented Janata Party, a coglomeration of various non-Congress parties and groups, barring leftists. He lifted the State of Emergency which was declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975 when she could not stand the unfavourable judgement unseating her by the Allahabad High Court. This was her biggest blemish which tarnished her image in the democratic world. Morarji Desai was a man of integrity, a true Gandhian but could not do much as he was surrounded by various personalities and groups who had their own vested interests. He tried to improve relations with USA, China and Pakistan and also brought about a distance from USSR but before he could think of doing more, he was defeated in the Parliament by people from his own Cabinet.
Charan Singh (28 July 11 Jan 1980) fell to the designs of Indira Gandhi and Congress who supported her initially but brought him down by withdrawing the support in January 1980. It is surprising that a man like Charan Singh could not see the political design of Congress and took its support just to fulfill his personal ambition of becoming a PM.
Rajiv Gandhi, a sophisticated non political entity succeeded his mother Indira Gandhi who was killed by her Sikh bodygaurds, earned negtive points right in the beginning when he turned a blind eye to the anti Sikh riots. Some of the riots could have started by his remarks on the community given under the shock of his mother's assassination. It was not a good beginning but he covered up by doing well in opening the Telecom sector in India, but again proved his immaturity on nullifying the Supreme Court judgement on the Shah Bano case.
By opening the Gates of Ayodhya, he fanned the Hindu Muslim divide which has widened to the widest chasm today. He could have been a good leader, had he remained true to his own conscience and personality of being a fair and honest. The Bofor's scandal brought him down politically and in the eyes of the people. He and his party lost the elections in 1989 and V.P. Singh leading a group of BJP, JP and other like minded groups became PM in Nov 1989. However his tenure did not last for little more than a year.
VP Singh was an honest to the core with a successful tenure of Chief Minister of UP. He was Finance Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet and brought out the Bofor's scam. His tenure was marked by forgiveness for the OPS Bluestar, withdrawal of IPKF and introduction of fixed quota /reservation in all sectors as per recommendations of Mandal Commission. This act of his to win over the SC/ST community and parties did not get him much support. His tenure was lacklustre and controversial. He was succeeded by Chandra Shekar for a short time.
In the 1991 elections, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, brought about sympathy votes for the Congress. P.V. Narshima Rao, a linguist, an experienced Congressman and a Senior Minister became PM in June 1991. He was the ECo. liberator of India, giving a growth incentive to the country and bring out india from the mores of socialism to benevolent capitalism. He tenure was also marked by the demolition of Babri Masjid, which he failed to control, as well as the Bombay Bombings. He could not have done better than what all he did because of unhealthy groupism in his own party. Between him and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, H.D. Devegowda and Inder Kumar Gujral served as Prime Minsters heading a motley crowd parties of Janata Party, CPI, CPM and other non-Cong and non BJP groups.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a respectable parliamentarian, a poet and well balanced rightist became PM on behalf of NDA on 19 March 1998 and served a full tenure till 22 May 2004. The NDA was defeated in the 2004 Poll. The NDA looked too much, rather misread the Shinning India slogan and had to accept defeat.
Man Mohan Singh a man respected for his Economic reforms, for his honesty and integrity, for his simplicity and unassummingness, became the Prime Minister as a Congressman. Though he was 12th man, the unwillingness of Sonia Gandhi to become PM brought him to the fore and yes he was the right man looking to the image he enjoyed. He successfully signed the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement, weathered the 2008 recession scare honorably and even handled the overall situation well till 2009. Thereafter his rule has been smeared by Scams and Scams, his turning blind eye to the ills going on in his own party, his silence on vital issues confronting the nation, his feebleness in front of the Gandhi family has not stood him well both within the Nation and outside. He would have been the best Prime Minister looking to his image, his sense of Economics, his desire to reign Eco. reforms and his non partisanship but he floundered just saving the image of Gandhi family. Right now his credentials are down but yet he can do something particularly after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from the finance Ministry.
It could be seen that the Indian Prime Ministership was a place for fulfilling personal ambition, extending family rule, not sharing neither tolerating non party thoughts and reforms and doing very little in the national interest.It would be appear that Lal Bahadur Shatri could be rated as No 1, though his tenure was short, Indira Gandhi as No.2 as she had achievements and leadership, A.B Vajpayee for balanced rule inspite of being surrounded by diverse partners like Mamta Bannerji, Jayalalitha, followed by P.V.Narsimmha Rao, M.M.Singh. This choice is personal and may be biased.
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