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'The only scholar prime minister of India'

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December 24, 2004 00:54 IST

I G Patel, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, enjoyed a special rapport with former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao. He was the latter's first choice to help his government lift India out of a tight financial situation in 1991. The job finally went to Manmohan Singh. Patel refused to comment on the alleged offer while paying tribute to Rao, who passed away on Thursday December 23.

"Rao was a thoughtful man. He was not an economist but was wise enough to understand its importance. He was sensible enough to realize that India was facing an economic crisis (in 1991) and that something should be done about it.

He deservers full credit for (introducing economic) reforms. He was the only scholar prime minister of India.

When Rajiv Gandhi lost the general elections in 1989, Rao joined the School of Oriental and African Studies library. Only a scholar can do this. It is not common to our politicians.

I met him only a few times. When he was the external affairs minister in Rajiv Gandhi's government, I was heading the London School of Economics. At that time, I had a diplomatic passport.

After I left LSE, Rao asked me to continue holding the diplomatic passport. Being the external affairs minister, he could authorize it. And, he did.

I have enjoyed using a diplomatic passport ever since. Hence, I have a personal reason to admire him.

(I G Patel spoke to Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi)