Friday, 22 July 2016

The Best And Worst Indian Prime Ministers

If I had to rank the four Indian Prime Ministers (in chronological order) who did the most to build India's economic foundations, they would have to be:
  1. Jawaharlal Nehru (built India's agricultural, industrial and higher educational foundations, preserved democratic institutions)
  2. Narasimha Rao (the famously "indecisive" executive presided over some of the most far-reaching reforms)
  3. AB Vajpayee (invested a lot in physical infrastructure, divested loss-making public sector units, was bold enough to conduct nuclear tests and force the world to make exceptions for India)
  4. Manmohan Singh (continued to expand reforms, laid the foundation for many schemes that Modi is now taking credit for)

You can see I am not biased towards the Gandhi family or even towards the Congress.
The worst Indian PMs (in chronological order) who did the most to damage India's interests, both economic and otherwise, were:
  1. Indira Gandhi (she more than made up for her positive contribution of splitting Pakistan, by declaring the Emergency and mounting numerous other assaults on democratic institutions. Indian democracy must have breathed a sigh of relief when she died. I certainly did.)
  2. Rajiv Gandhi (He created the 1991 balance of payments crisis with his profligacy, and was complicit in the first mass murder of its scale (the 1984 riots), plus his response to the Shah Bano verdict created an enduring social wound, and who can forget the Bofors scam in which he was most probably guilty? Awful, awful man.)
  3. IK Gujral (the bleeding-heart Punjabi dismantled India's elaborate spy network in Pakistan overnight. He should have been punished by being deported to Pakistan and forced to live there for the rest of his life.)

Most other prime ministers were either somewhere in the middle, with their positives and negatives neutralising each other (Morarji Desai, VP Singh) or did not last long enough to make an impact even if they showed promise (Lal Bahadur Shastri, Chandrashekhar). IK Gujral therefore has the dubious distinction of being the only PM who managed to make such a huge impact in such a short time.

And Modi? It's too soon to tell where he belongs. As of now, I think he has the potential to make it into either list. He has shown promise in both directions.