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Rao days come to haunt PM

Rao days come to haunt PM

Author: Our Political Bureau, New Delhi
Publication: The Economic Times
Dated: February 6, 2007

Former West Bengal finance minister Ashok Mitra's revelations about the role of American pressure in the selection of the finance minister in PV Narasimha Rao's government in 1991 were on Monday used by the BJP to corner Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Rao has chosen Mr Singh as the country's finance minister then, and it is the manner in which he came to occupy the post that has been questioned by the former West Bengal finance minister. Mr Mitra made this point in his book, christened 'A Prattler's Tale'. It was published only recently, but has already generated a lot of controversy over contents.

In one of the chapters, Mr Mitra, who, after a stint in West Bengal as finance minister, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the CPM, makes some unsavoury remarks about the appointment of finance minister in 1991. He alleges that the offer was first made to former RBI governor IG Patel (even though his name is not mentioned), but when he refused to accept it, the responsibility fell on Mr Singh.

The BJP on Monday asked Mr Mitra and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to come clean on the issue. "It is generally believed that Mr Singh is a man of impeccable integrity. Loyalty to one's country is the biggest test of this integrity. Mr Mitra, in his book, has sought to question this," party vice-president Yashwant Sinha told newspersons here on Monday afternoon. The BJP leader also asked the CPM, which extends the crucial lifeline to the UPA government and which has serious reservations about "the all-pervasive American influence", to clarify its position.

The issue here, the former Union minister maintained, is not the process of reforms. "It is the manner in which the Narasimha Rao government appointed Mr Singh as its finance minister, who's now the prime minister," Mr Sinha argued. "If such views are expressed about the country's Prime Minister, we have reasons to be disappointed, and concerned," he said.

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