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Political Career

Rao was an active freedom fighter during the Indian Independence movement and joined full-time politics after independence as a member of the Indian National Congress. He served as an elected representative for Andhra Pradesh state assembly from 1957 to 1977. He served in various ministerial positions in Andhra government from 1962 to 1973.

He became the Chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1971 and implemented land reforms and land ceiling acts strictly. He secured reservation for lower castes in politics during his tenure. President’s rule had to be imposed to counter the Jai Andhra movement during his tenure.

 

He supported Indira Gandhi in formation of New Congress party in 1969 by splitting the Indian National Congress. This was later regrouped as Congress (I) party in 1978. He served as Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh districts in 1972. He rose to national prominence in 1972 for handling several diverse portfolios, most significantly Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs, in the cabinets of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He serves as Foreign minister from 1980 to 1984 and then from 1988 to 1989. In fact, it is speculated that he was in the running for the post of India’s President along with Zail Singh in 1982.

Rao very nearly retired from politics in 1991. It was the assassination of the Congress President Rajiv Gandhi that persuaded him to make a comeback. As the Congress had won the largest number of seats in the 1991 elections, he had an opportunity to head the minority government as Prime Minister. He was the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as Prime Minister for five continuous years, the first to hail from the state of Andhra Pradesh, and also the first from southern India. Since Rao had not contested the general elections, he then participated in a by-election in Nandyal to join the parliament. Rao won from Nandyal with a victory margin of a record 5 lakh (500,000) votes and his win was recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records and he was Prime Minister of India at that time; later on, in 1996, he was MP from Berhampur, Ganjam, Odisha. His cabinet included Sharad Pawar, himself a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s post, as Defence Minister. He also broke a convention by appointing a non-political economist and future prime minister, Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister. He also appointed Subramanian Swamy, an Opposition party member as the Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade. This has been the only instance that an Opposition Party member was given a Cabinet rank post by the ruling party. He also sent Opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee , to represent India in a UN meeting at Geneva citation needed.

Narasimha Rao fought and won elections from different parts of India such as Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.