Those days of instability! India saw four prime ministers during the tenure of George H W Bush
Bengaluru, Dec 2: Forty-first president of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush recently died at his residence in Houston, Texas, at the age of 94. The man though had served a single term in office, succeeding Ronald Reagan in 1989 and continued till 1993 to give way to Democrat Bill Clinton, he is remembered as one who authored significant success for his country in matters of foreign policy and diplomacy, particularly the Gulf War of 1991 and giving the finishing touches to the decades of Cold War that also came to end around the same time.
India, however, wasn't as stable politically and also economically when Bush Senior was in power (his son, George W Bush also became US president in 1997). Bush Senior's tenure had seen as many as four men doing the job of the prime ministership in India in quick succession, proving how much instable the country's politics was at that time.
Rajiv Gandhi was in power when Bush assumed office
When Bush took over in January 1989, India had Rajiv Gandhi at the helm. The Congress prime minister, who came to power after his mother Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984, started with a massive majority but failed to live up to the expectations and his government was seriously plagued by conspiracy charges (remember Bofors). In the 1989 general elections, the Congress was booted out of power at the Centre for the second time after 12 years and the coalition Raj took over.
Then came VP Singh for less than a year
Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Rajiv's close man once, was the next man in as the prime minister, taking charge in December 1989. But Singh's National Front government, which banked on support from the BJP and Left, among other anti-Congress forces, did not last a year over the rise of Mandir politics. The BJP withdrew support over disappointment over Singh's role in Mandir politics and the government fell in November 1990. However, Singh's Mandal politics had engineered a significant change in the DNA of the country's politics and society by then.
In came Chandra Sekhar after Singh but for even shorter period
Singh's short stay in office was followed by another short-lived prime minister and he was Chandra Sekhar, one of the Congress's young Turks of the Indira era. Chandra Sekhar had always sought the opportunity to beat people like VP Singh to reach the saddle of power and the opportunity came in 1990 but he could not last more than the period Singh stayed in office. The Congress, which had supported him, withdrew support after accusing him of snooping outside its leader Rajiv Gandhi's home and Chandra Sekhar's days were over in June 1991. This was a rerun of the fall of Charan Singh, India's shortest-serving prime minister, whose downfall was orchestrated by Indira Gandhi. Chandra Sekhar was the last prime minister of India's pre-liberalisation era when the country was faced with a dreaded economic uncertainty.
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Finally, PV Narasimha Rao took over
The general election followed after Chandra Sekhar's fall during which Rajiv was assassinated in Tamil Nadu and PV Narasimha Rao, the architect of India's liberalisation regime along with Manmohan Singh, became the PM in June 1991. He also led a minority government which however survived a full term till 1996. Rao is also credited for improving India's relationship with the US which was visible when Clinton took office but Bush continued to have a faith on the Indian democracy despite the political instability and the death of Rajiv, with whom he had a close relation. Rao was the only Indian PM who Bush met as the president of the US, in January 1992.