V. P. Singh

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Vishwanath Pratap Singh
V. P. Singh (cropped).jpg
Vishwanath Pratap Singh in 1989
8th Prime Minister of India
In office
2 December 1989 – 10 November 1990
President Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Deputy Chaudhary Devi Lal
Preceded by Rajiv Gandhi
Succeeded by Chandra Shekhar
Minister of Defence
In office
2 December 1989 – 10 November 1990
Preceded by Krishna Chandra Pant
Succeeded by Chandra Shekhar Singh
In office
24 January 1987 – 12 April 1987
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
Preceded by Rajiv Gandhi
Succeeded by Krishna Chandra Pant
Minister of Finance
In office
31 December 1984 – 23 January 1987
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
Preceded by Pranab Mukherjee
Succeeded by Rajiv Gandhi
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
In office
9 June 1980 – 19 July 1982
Governor Chandeshwar Prasad Narayan Singh
Preceded by Banarsi Das
Succeeded by Sripati Mishra
Personal details
Born (1931-06-25)25 June 1931
Allahabad, United Provinces, British India
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died 27 November 2008(2008-11-27) (aged 77)
New Delhi, Delhi, India
Political party Jan Morcha (1987–1988; 2006–2008)
Other political
affiliations
Indian National Congress (Before 1987)
Janata Dal (1988–2006)
Spouse(s) Sita Kumari[1]
Alma mater Allahabad University
University of Pune
Religion Hinduism
Signature

Vishwanath Pratap Singh (25 June 1931 – 27 November 2008), Indian politician and government official, was the eighth Prime Minister of India (1989–90) and the 41st nominal Raja Bahadur (ruler) of the northern kingdom of Manda.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh is known for trying to improve the lot of India's lower castes in his term as Prime Minister. Singh was renowned for his obsession with honesty and his willingness to sacrifice office.[2]

Early career[edit]

Singh was born in the royal family ruling the kingdom of Manda on 25 June 1931.[3][4] He obtained his education from Colonel Brown Cambridge School, Dehra Dun and studied at Allahabad and Pune (Poona) universities.[5]

Singh became a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh in 1969 as a member of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party). He won election to the Lok Sabha in 1971 and was appointed a Deputy Minister of Commerce by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1974. He served as the Minister of Commerce in 1976–77.[6]

He was appointed by Indira Gandhi as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980, when Gandhi was re-elected after the Janata interlude.[7] As Chief Minister (1980–82), he cracked down hard on dacoitry, a problem that was particularly severe in the rural districts of the south-west Uttar Pradesh. He received much favorable national publicity when he offered to resign following a self-professed failure to stamp out the problem, and again when he personally oversaw the surrender of some of the most feared dacoits of the area in 1983.

He resumed his post as Minister of Commerce in 1983.[8]

Finance Minister Of India (1984-87) and Defence Minister Of India (1987)[edit]

Called to New Delhi following Rajiv Gandhi's massive mandate in the 1984 General Elections, Singh was appointed to the pivotal post of Finance Minister, where he oversaw the gradual relaxation of the License Raj (governmental regulation) as Gandhi had in mind. During his term as Finance Minister, he oversaw the reduction of gold smuggling by reducing gold taxes and giving the police a portion of the confiscated gold. He also gave extraordinary powers to the Enforcement Directorate of the Finance Ministry, the wing of the ministry charged with tracking down tax evaders, then headed by Bhure Lal. Singh’s efforts to reduce governmental regulation of business and to prosecute tax fraud attracted widespread praise.[9]

Following a number of high-profile raids on suspected evaders – including Dhirubhai Ambani and Amitabh Bachchan – Gandhi was forced to sack him as Finance Minister, possibly because many of the raids were conducted on industrialists who had supported the Congress financially in the past.[10] However, Singh's popularity was at such a pitch that only a sideways move seemed to have been possible, to the Defence Ministry (in January 1987).[11]

Once ensconced in South Block, Singh began to investigate the notoriously murky world of defence procurement. After a while, word began to spread that Singh possessed information about the Bofors defence deal (the infamous arms-procurement fraud) that could damage Gandhi's reputation.[12] Before he could act on it, he was dismissed from the Cabinet and, in response, resigned his memberships in the Congress Party (Indira) and the Lok Sabha.[13]

Formation of Janata Dal[edit]

Together with associates Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammad Khan, Singh floated an opposition party named Jan Morcha.[14] He was re-elected to Lok Sabha in a tightly contested by-election from Allahabad, defeating Sunil Shastri.[15][16] On 11 October 1988, the birthday of the original Janata coalition's leader Jayaprakash Narayan, Singh founded the Janata Dal by the merger of Jan Morcha, Janata Party, Lok Dal and Congress (S), in order to bring together all the centrist parties opposed to the Rajiv Gandhi government, and VP Singh was elected the President of the Janata Dal. An opposition coalition of the Janata Dal with various regional parties including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Telugu Desam Party, and Asom Gana Parishad, came into being, called the National Front, with VP Singh as convener, NT Rama Rao as President, and P Upendra as a General Secretary.[17]

National Front coalition government[edit]

The National Front fought 1989 General Elections after coming to an electoral understanding with Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front (the two main oppositions) that served to unify the anti-Congress vote. The National Front, with its allies, earned a simple majority in the Lok Sabha and decided to form a government. The Left Front (under EMS Namboodiripad and Indrajit Gupta) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (under LK Advani) declined to serve in the government, preferring to support it from outside.

In a dramatic meeting in the Central Hall of Parliament on 1 December, VP Singh proposed the name of Devi Lal as Prime Minister, in spite of the fact that he himself had been clearly projected by the anti-Congress forces as the 'clean' alternative to Rajiv Gandhi and their Prime Ministerial candidate. Devi Lal, a Jat leader from Haryana stood up and refused the nomination, and said that he would prefer to be an 'elder uncle' to the Government, and that Singh should be Prime Minister.[18][19] This last part came as a clear surprise to Chandra Shekhar, the former head of the erstwhile Janata Party, and Singh's greatest rival within the Janata Dal. Shekhar, who had clearly expected that an agreement had been forged with Lal as the consensus candidate, withdrew from the meeting and refused to serve in the Cabinet.

Singh was sworn in as India’s prime minister on 2 December 1989.[20]

Prime Minister (1989-90)[edit]

Singh held office for slightly less than a year, from 2 December 1989 to 10 November 1990. After state legislative elections in March 1990, Singh’s governing coalition achieved control of both houses of India’s parliament.[21] During this time, Janata Dal came to power in five Indian states under Om Prakash Chautala (Banarsi Das Gupta, Hukam Singh), Chimanbhai Patel, Biju Patnaik, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the National Front constituents in three more under M Karunanidhi, NT Rama Rao, and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. The Janata Dal also shared power in Kerala under EK Nayanar and in Rajasthan under Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party government from outside VP Singh decided to end the Indian army's unsuccessful operation in Sri Lanka where Rajiv Gandhi, his predecessor, had sent it to combat the Tamil separatist movement.[22]

VP Singh faced his first crisis within few days of taking office: terrorists kidnapped the daughter of his Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir). His government agreed to the demand for releasing militants in exchange; partly to end the storm of criticism that followed, he shortly thereafter appointed Jagmohan Malhotra, a former bureaucrat, as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, on the insistence of the Bharatiya Janata Party.[23]

In Punjab, Singh replaced the hard-line Siddhartha Shankar Ray as Governor with another former bureaucrat, Nirmal Kumar Mukarji, who moved forward on a timetable for fresh elections. Singh himself made a much-publicised visit to the Golden Temple to ask forgiveness for Operation Blue Star and the combination of events caused the long rebellion in Punjab to die down markedly in a few months.[24]

VP Singh also thwarted the efforts of Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto to start a border war with India.[25][26][27]

Mandal Commission report[edit]

Singh himself wished to move forward nationally on social justice-related issues, which would in addition consolidate the caste coalition that supported the Janata Dal in northern India, and accordingly decided to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission which suggested that a fixed quota of all jobs in the public sector be reserved for members of the historically disadvantaged so-called Other Backward Classes. This decision led to widespread protests among the upper caste youth in urban areas in northern India. OBC reservation (less creamy layer) was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.[28][29]

Tussle with Reliance group[edit]

In 1990, the government-owned financial institutions like the Life Insurance Corporation of India and the General Insurance Corporation stonewalled attempts by the Reliance group to acquire managerial control over Larsen & Toubro. Sensing defeat, the Ambanis resigned from the board of the company. Dhirubhai, who had become Larsen & Toubro's chairman in April 1989, had to quit his post to make way for D. N. Ghosh, former chairman of the State Bank of India.

Ram temple issue and the fall of the coalition[edit]

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party was moving its own agenda forward. In particular, the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, which served as a rallying cry for several radical Hindu organisations, took on new life. The party president, LK Advani, with Pramod Mahajan as aide, toured the northern states on a rath – a bus converted to look like a mythical chariot – with the intention of drumming up support.[30] Before he could complete the tour by reaching the disputed site in Ayodhya, he was arrested on Singh's orders at Samastipur on the charges of disturbing the peace and fomenting communal tension. The kār-seva (demolition of the mosque and construction of the temple) proposed by Advani on 30 October 1990 was prevented by stationing troops at the site.[31][32][33]

This led to the Bharatiya Janata Party's suspension of support to the National Front government.[34] VP Singh faced the vote of no confidence in in the Lok Sabha saying that he occupied the high moral ground, as he stood for secularism, had saved the Babri Masjid at the cost of power and had upheld the fundamental principles which were challenged during the crises. "What kind of India do you want?" he asked of his opponents in Parliament, before losing the vote 142–346;[35][36][37] only a portion of the National Front remaining loyal to him (see below) and the Left front supported him in the vote.

Singh resigned on 7 November 1990.[38]

The Chandra Shekhar government[edit]

Chandra Shekhar immediately seized the moment and left the Janata Dal with several of his own supporters (including Devi Lal, Janeshwar Mishra, HD Deve Gowda, Maneka Gandhi, Ashoke Kumar Sen, Subodh Kant Sahay, Om Prakash Chautala, Hukam Singh, Chimanbhai Patel, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Yashwant Sinha, VC Shukla, and Sanjay Singh) to form the Samajwadi Janata Party/Janata Dal (Socialist).[39] Although Chandra Shekhar had a mere 64 MPs, Rajiv Gandhi the leader of the Opposition, agreed to support him on the floor of the House; so he won a confidence motion and was sworn in as Prime Minister.[40] Eight Janata Dal MPs who voted for this motion were disqualified by the speaker Rabi Ray. He lasted only a few months before Gandhi withdrew support and fresh elections were called. He tried his best to get support till the last minute but failed.

United Front coalition and later years[edit]

VP Singh contested the new elections but his party was relegated to the opposition chiefly due to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi (May 1991) during the election campaign, and he later retired from active politics.[41][42] He spent the next few years touring the country speaking about matters related to issues of social justice and his artistic pursuits, chiefly painting.

In 1992, Singh was the first to propose the name of the future President KR Narayanan as a (eventually successful) candidate for Vice President. Later the same year in December, he led his followers to Ayodhya to oppose the karseva proposed by LK Advani, and was arrested before he could reach the site; the Masjid was demolished by the karsevaks a few days later.

In 1996 the Congress party lost the general elections and VP Singh was the natural choice of the winning United Front (Singh was one of the forces behind the broad United Front coalition) for the post of Prime Minister. But he declined the offer made to him by communist veteran Jyoti Basu, Bihar strongman Lalu Prasad Yadav and almost all leaders of the Janata family.[43]

Singh was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and ceased his public appearances. When his cancer went into remission in 2003, he once again became a visible figure, especially in the many groupings that had inherited the space once occupied by his Janata Dal. He relaunched the Jan Morcha in 2006 with politician-turned-actor Raj Babbar as President.[44] After Jan Morcha drew a blank in the 2007 UP elections, Raj Babbar joined the Congress, and Singh's elder son Ajeya Singh (Ajeya Pratap Singh) took over the reins of the party in anticipation of the 2009 General elections.[45] Ajeya Singh then contested as Jan Morcha candidate from Fatehpur, but lost to Rakesh Sachan of the Samajwadi Party. The Jan Morcha was renamed as the National Jan Morcha in June 2009.[46] A month later, the Jan Morcha merged with the Indian National Congress.[47]

Singh was placed under arrest in Ghaziabad as he and his supporters were proceeding towards a hauling where prohibitory orders under Section 144 had been imposed to join the farmers agitating against the acquisition of land at Dadri by the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Industries and demanding adequate compensation.[48] Later, Singh and CPI General Secretary AB Bardhan[49] were again arrested on the UP border when they were proceeding to Dadri. However, Singh and Babbar were later able to evade the police, reaching Dadri on 18 August 2006, and ploughing the land in solidarity with the farmers.[50][51]

Personal life[edit]

Singh married Sita Kumari, the daughter of the Raja of Deogarh-Madaria, Rajasthan, on 25 June 1955. It was an arranged marriage. He was 24, and she was 18. Kumari was a Sisodia Rajput descended from Rana Pratap of Udaipur. The couple had two sons. Ajay Singh (born 1957) is a chartered accountant in New York, and Abhai Singh (born 1958) is a doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.[52]

Death[edit]

VP Singh died after a long struggle with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and renal failure at Apollo Hospital in Delhi on 27 November 2008.[53][54] He was cremated at Allahabad on the banks of the River Ganges on 29 November 2008, his son Ajeya Singh lighting the funeral pyre.[55]

Cultural legacy[edit]

Films[edit]

  • Juliet Reynolds, an art critic and a close friend of Singh, made a short documentary on him, titled The Art of the Impossible (45 minutes long), and covers his political and artistic career.[56]

Books[edit]

  • GS Bhargava: Peristroika in India: VP Singh's Prime Ministership, Gian Publishing House, New Delhi, 1990.
  • Madan Gaur: VP Singh: Portrait of a Leader, Press and Publicity Syndicate of India, 1990.
  • Seema Mustafa: The Lonely Prophet: VP Singh, a Political Biography, New Age international, 1995.
  • Ram Bahadur Rai: Manjil se Jyada Safar (in Hindi), 2005.

Other books connected to VP Singh[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/VP-Singhs-wife-to-get-Rs-1-lakh-for-defamation/articleshow/16759539.cms
  2. ^ Obituary VP Singh Mark Tully The Guardian, 3 December 2008 [1]
  3. ^ Community Warriors: State, Peasants and Caste Armies in Bihar Ashwani Kumar Anthem Press, 2008 [2]
  4. ^ Zee News
  5. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  6. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  7. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  8. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  9. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  10. ^ In May 1985, Singh suddenly removed the import of Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) from the Open General License category. As a raw material this was very important to manufacture polyester filament yarn. This made it very difficult for Reliance Industries under Dhirubhai Ambani to carry on operations. Reliance was able to secure, from various financial institutions, letters of credit that would allow it to import almost one full year’s requirement of PTA on the eve of the issuance of the government notification changing the category under which PTA could be imported.
  11. ^ In India, economic gains and new perils. New York Times. (2 March 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  12. ^ Indian Government Lodges First Charges In Weapons Scandal. New York Times. (23 January 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  13. ^ Turmoil and a Scandal Take a Toll on Gandhi. New York Times. (24 August 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  14. ^ Is the Raja Ready for War, or Losing His Steam?. New York Times. (8 October 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  15. ^ Gandhi foes face test of strength. New York Times. (13 June 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  16. ^ Gandhi Is Finding Out Fast How Much He Had to Lose. New York Times. (3 July 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  17. ^ New Opposition Front in India Stages Lively Rally. New York Times. (18 September 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  18. ^ Man in the News; V. P. Singh: Low-key Indian in high-anxiety job – New York Times report. New York Times (3 December 1989). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  19. ^ Indian opposition chooses a Premier. New York Times. (2 December 1989). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  20. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  21. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  22. ^ Obituary VP Singh Mark Tully The Guardian, 3 December 2008 [3]
  23. ^ Kashmir Officials Under Attack For Yielding to Muslim Abductors. New York Times. (15 December 1989). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  24. ^ India's Premier Offers Concessions to Sikhs. New York Times. (12 January 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  25. ^ India Asserts That Pakistan Is Preparing for Border War. New York Times. (15 April 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  26. ^ India and Pakistan Make the Most of Hard Feelings. New York Times. (22 April 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  27. ^ India, Stymied, Pulls Last Troops From Sri Lanka. New York Times. (25 March 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  28. ^ Affirmative Action Has India's Students Astir. New York Times. (22 August 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  29. ^ Premier of India in appeal on riots. New York Times. (27 September 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  30. ^ Hindu fundamentalist threatens India's government over temple. New York Times. (18 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  31. ^ India Sends Troops to Stop Hindu March. New York Times. (26 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  32. ^ India ready to bar Hindu move today – New York Times report. New York Times. (30 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  33. ^ Toll in India clash at Mosque rises. New York Times. (1 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  34. ^ India's Prime Minister Loses His Parliamentary Majority in Temple Dispute. New York Times. (24 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  35. ^ India's cabinet falls as Premier loses confidence vote, by 142–346, and quits – New York Times report. New York Times (8 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  36. ^ A Test of Principles in India – New York Times Editorial. New York Times. (8 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  37. ^ A Question Unanswered: Where Is India Headed?. New York Times. (11 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  38. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  39. ^ Dissidents Split Indian Prime Minister's Party. New York Times. (6 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  40. ^ Rival of Singh Becomes India Premier. New York Times. (10 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  41. ^ For India, Will It Be Change, Secularism or a Right Wing?. New York Times. (24 April 1991). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  42. ^ Ex-Darling of India Press Finds Himself Ignored – New York Times report. New York Times (14 May 1991). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  43. ^ "V.P. Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 8 May. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/545849/VP-Singh>.
  44. ^ V. P. Singh
  45. ^ An irreparable loss: Mayawati[dead link]
  46. ^ National Jan Morcha plans farmers’ meet in Delhi[dead link]
  47. ^ Jan Morcha merges with Congress. The Hindu. (25 July 2009). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  48. ^ V. P. Singh arrested on way to Reliance plant[dead link]
  49. ^ V. P. Singh, Bardhan held on U. P. border[dead link]
  50. ^ V. P. Singh, Raj Babbar spring a surprise at Dadri[dead link]
  51. ^ Jan Morcha plans `Nyaya Yatra'[dead link]
  52. ^ Singh, Khushwant (11 April 2013). "Plane to Pakistan". Malicious Gossip. HarperCollins Publishers India. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  53. ^ V. P. Singh passes away[dead link]
  54. ^ Pandya, Haresh. (29 November 2008) V. P. Singh, a leader of India who defended poor, dies at 77 – New York Times report. New York Times.. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  55. ^ V. P. Singh cremated[dead link]
  56. ^ The Raja, Up, Close and Personal. Indian Express. (21 January 2001). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  57. ^ Suma Josson. Cinemaofmalayalam.net. Retrieved 14 September 2011.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Banarsi Das
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
1980–1982
Succeeded by
Sripati Mishra
Preceded by
Pranab Mukherjee
Minister of Finance
1985–1987
Succeeded by
Rajiv Gandhi
Preceded by
Rajiv Gandhi
Minister of Defence
1987
Succeeded by
Krishna Chandra Pant
Prime Minister of India
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Chandra Shekhar
Chairperson of the Planning Commission
1989–1990
Preceded by
Krishna Chandra Pant
Minister of Defence
1989–1990