V. P. Singh
|Vishwanath Pratap Singh|
|V. P. Singh in 1989|
|7th Prime Minister of India|
2 December 1989 – 10 November 1990
|Deputy||Chaudhary Devi Lal|
|Preceded by||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Succeeded by||Chandra Shekhar|
|Minister of Defence|
2 December 1989 – 10 November 1990
|Preceded by||Krishna Chandra Pant|
|Succeeded by||Chandra Shekhar Singh|
24 January 1987 – 12 April 1987
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Succeeded by||Krishna Chandra Pant|
|Minister of Finance|
31 December 1984 – 23 January 1987
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Pranab Mukherjee|
|Succeeded by||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh|
9 June 1980 – 19 July 1982
|Governor||Chandeshwar Prasad Narayan Singh|
|Preceded by||Banarsi Das|
|Succeeded by||Sripati Mishra|
25 June 1931|
Allahabad, United Provinces, British India
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
|Died||27 November 2008
New Delhi, Delhi, India
|Political party||Jan Morcha (1987–1988; 2006–2008)|
|Indian National Congress (Before 1987)
Janata Dal (1988–2006)
|Alma mater||Allahabad University
University of Pune
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
He was born in the Rajput Gaharwar (Rathore) Royal Family of Manda to Raja Bhagwati Prasad Singh of Daiya and was later adopted by Raja Bahadur Ram Gopal Singh of Manda in 1936, whom he succeeded in 1941. V. P. Singh studied at Colonel Brown Cambridge School, Dehradun for five years, and entered local politics in Allahabad during the Nehru era. He married Rani Sita Kumari, born 1936 in Deogarh, Udaipur, daughter of Rawat Sangram Singh II of Deogarh on 25 June 1955. He soon made a name for himself in the state Congress Party for his unfailing rectitude, a reputation that he would carry with him throughout his career.
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
He was appointed by Indira Gandhi as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980, when the Congress came back to power after the Janata Party interregnum. As Chief Minister, he cracked down hard on the dacoity, or banditry, problem, that was particularly severe in the rural districts of the south-west. He received much favourable 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.
Cabinet Minister for Finance and Defence
Called to the Centre following Rajiv Gandhi's massive mandate in the 1984 General elections, he was appointed to the pivotal post of Finance Minister, where he oversaw the gradual relaxation of the license Raj as Rajiv 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. Following a number of high-profile raids on suspected evaders – including Dhirubhai Ambani and Amitabh Bachchan – Rajiv 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. However, Singh's popularity was at such a pitch that only a sideways move seemed to have been possible, to the Defence Ministry.
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 that could damage the Prime Minister's reputation. Before he could act on it, he was dismissed from the Cabinet and, in response, resigned his memberships in the Congress Party and the Lok Sabha.
Jan Morcha, Janata Dal, and National Front
Together with associates Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammad Khan, Singh floated an opposition party named the Jan Morcha. He was re-elected to Lok Sabha in a tightly contested by-election from Allahabad, defeating Sunil Shastri. On 11 October 1988, the birthday of the original Janata coalition's spiritual leader Jayaprakash Narayan, the Janata Dal was formed by 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 V. P. Singh was elected the President of the Janata Dal. A federation of the Janata Dal with various regional parties including the DMK, TDP, and AGP, came into being, called the National Front, with V. P. Singh as convener, N. T. Rama Rao as President, and Leader of the Opposition, P. Upendra as a General Secretary.
General Elections of 1989
The National Front fought the elections in 1989 after coming to an electoral understanding with Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Left Front 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 E. M. S. Namboodiripad and Indrajit Gupta) and the BJP (under L. K. Advani) declined to serve in the government, preferring to support it from outside.
Election as Prime Minister
In a dramatic meeting in the Central Hall of Parliament on 1 December, V. P. 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 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 PM. 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 held office for slightly less than a year, from 2 December 1989 to 10 November 1990. During this time, Janata Dal came to power in 5 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, N. T. Rama Rao, and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. The Janata Dal also shared power in Kerala under E. K. Nayanar and in Rajasthan under Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (supporting the BJP government from outside).
Punjab, Kashmir, and Pakistan
He 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, a former bureaucrat, as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, on the insistence of the BJP. In Punjab, Singh replaced the hardline 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. V. P. Singh also withdrew the IPKF from Sri Lanka and thwarted the efforts of Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto to start a border war.
Reservation for Backward Classes
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 North 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. (Generally abbreviated OBCs, these were Hindu castes, and certain non-Hindu caste-like communities, which, though not untouchable, had been socially and educationally backward). This decision led to widespread protests among the upper caste youth in urban areas in North India. OBC reservation (less creamy layer) was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
Tussle with Dhirubhai Ambani
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 L&T'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.
Meanwhile, the BJP 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, L. K. 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. 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. This led to the BJP's suspension of support to the National Front government. V. P. Singh faced the vote of confidence 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; only a portion of the National Front remaining loyal to him (see below) and the Left front supported him in the vote.
Chandra Shekhar immediately seized the moment and left the Janata Dal with several of his own supporters (including Devi Lal, Janeshwar Mishra, H. D. Deve Gowda, Maneka Gandhi, Ashoke Kumar Sen, Subodh Kant Sahay, Om Prakash Chautala, Hukam Singh, Chimanbhai Patel, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Yashwant Sinha, V. C. Shukla, and Sanjay Singh) to form the Samajwadi Janata Party / Janata Dal (Socialist). Although he 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. 8 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.
Singh contested the new elections but his party was relegated to the opposition chiefly due to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during the election campaign, and he later retired from active politics. 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 1996 Congress party lost in the election and VP Singh was the natural choice of the winning United Front for the post of Prime Minister. But he declined the offer made to him by communist veteran Jyoti Basu, Bihar Strongman Lalu Yadav and almost all leaders of the Janata parivar.He was one of the most honest politicians of the modern world who was never greedy for power. In the H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral governments of the late 1990s, Singh acted as a sort of elder statesman and adviser for the successors to the National Front coalition. In 1992, Singh was the first to propose the name of the future President K. R. Narayanan as a (eventually successful) candidate for Vice President. Later the same year in December, he led his followers to Ayodhya to oppose the Kar seva proposed by L. K. Advani, and was arrested before he could reach the site; the Masjid was demolished by the kar sevaks a few days later. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and ceased his public appearances.
Jan Morcha relaunch
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. Ironically, his caste-based social justice policies had caused the rise of parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party that were formed around caste identities; his own notion of populist socialism was thus squeezed out of the electoral marketplace. To remedy this, he relaunched the Jan Morcha in 2006 with Raj Babbar as President, and began the slow process of aggregation of smaller parties in the North with a view to contesting the 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections.
Agitation at Dadri
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. Later, Singh and CPI General Secretary A. B. Bardhan were again arrested on the U. P. 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.
V. P. Singh died after a long struggle with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and renal failure at Apollo Hospital in Delhi on 27 November 2008. It is also noted that he died during the 26/11 attacks. He was cremated at Allahabad on the banks of the River Ganges on 29 November 2008, his son Ajeya Singh lighting the funeral pyre.
National Jan Morcha
After the party 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. In March 2009 Ajeya Singh announced that Jan Morcha was to be merged with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Ajeya Singh and other members were inducted into the LJP and Ajeya was declared a Vice President of the party and its candidate from Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency. However, later, Ram Vilas Paswan joined hands with the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the RJD of Laloo Prasad Yadav, to form a Fourth front, and Mulayam Singh declared that the LJP would not contest any seats in UP. Ajeya Singh then contested as Jan Morcha candidate from Fatehpur, but lost to Rakesh Sachan of the SP.
The Jan Morcha was renamed as the National Jan Morcha in June 2009 and dedicated to farmer's causes and to forging a third alternative in national politics. A month later, the Jan Morcha merged with the Indian National Congress.
Films on V. P. Singh
Books on V. P. Singh
- G. S. Bhargava: Peristroika in India: V. P. Singh's Prime ministership, Gian publishing house, New Delhi, 1990.
- Madan Gaur: V. P. Singh: portrait of a leader, Press and Publicity Syndicate of India, 1990.
- Seema Mustafa: The lonely prophet: V. P. Singh, a political biography, New Age international, 1995.
- Ram Bahadur Rai: Manjil se jyada safar (in Hindi), 2005.
Other books connected to V. P. Singh
- I. K. Gujral: Matters of Discretion: An Autobiography, Hay House, India, 519 pages, Feb. 2011. ISBN 978-93-8048-080-0. Distributors: Penguin books, India. (The only autobiography by an Indian PM)
- R. Venkataraman: My Presidential Years, HarperCollins/Indus, 1995. ISBN 81-7223-202-0.
- P. Upendra: Gatham Swagatham.
- 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.
- In India, economic gains and new perils. New York Times. (2 March 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Indian Government Lodges First Charges In Weapons Scandal. New York Times. (23 January 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Turmoil and a Scandal Take a Toll on Gandhi. New York Times. (24 August 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Is the Raja Ready for War, or Losing His Steam?. New York Times. (8 October 1987). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Gandhi foes face test of strength. New York Times. (13 June 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Gandhi Is Finding Out Fast How Much He Had to Lose. New York Times. (3 July 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- New Opposition Front in India Stages Lively Rally. New York Times. (18 September 1988). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- 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.
- Indian opposition chooses a Premier. New York Times. (2 December 1989). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Kashmir Officials Under Attack For Yielding to Muslim Abductors. New York Times. (15 December 1989). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India's Premier Offers Concessions to Sikhs. New York Times. (12 January 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India, Stymied, Pulls Last Troops From Sri Lanka. New York Times. (25 March 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India Asserts That Pakistan Is Preparing for Border War. New York Times. (15 April 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India and Pakistan Make the Most of Hard Feelings. New York Times. (22 April 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Affirmative Action Has India's Students Astir. New York Times. (22 August 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Premier of India in appeal on riots. New York Times. (27 September 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Hindu fundamentalist threatens India's government over temple. New York Times. (18 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India Sends Troops to Stop Hindu March. New York Times. (26 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India ready to bar Hindu move today – New York Times report. New York Times. (30 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Toll in India clash at Mosque rises. New York Times. (1 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- India's Prime Minister Loses His Parliamentary Majority in Temple Dispute. New York Times. (24 October 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- 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.
- A Test of Principles in India – New York Times Editorial. New York Times. (8 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- A Question Unanswered: Where Is India Headed?. New York Times. (11 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Dissidents Split Indian Prime Minister's Party. New York Times. (6 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Rival of Singh Becomes India Premier. New York Times. (10 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- For India, Will It Be Change, Secularism or a Right Wing?. New York Times. (24 April 1991). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Ex-Darling of India Press Finds Himself Ignored – New York Times report. New York Times (14 May 1991). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- V. P. Singh, Raj Babbar launch new Jan Morcha[dead link]
- V. P. Singh arrested on way to Reliance plant[dead link]
- V. P. Singh, Bardhan held on U. P. border[dead link]
- V. P. Singh, Raj Babbar spring a surprise at Dadri[dead link]
- Jan Morcha plans `Nyaya Yatra'[dead link]
- V. P. Singh passes away[dead link]
- 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.
- V. P. Singh cremated[dead link]
- An irreparable loss: Mayawati[dead link]
- Jan Morcha merges with LJP[dead link]
- Corruption main poll issue: Mulayam[dead link]
- National Jan Morcha plans farmers’ meet in Delhi[dead link]
- Jan Morcha merges with Congress. The Hindu. (25 July 2009). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- The Raja, Up, Close and Personal. Indian Express. (21 January 2001). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- Suma Josson. Cinemaofmalayalam.net. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
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|Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
|Minister of Finance
|Minister of Defence
Krishna Chandra Pant
|Prime Minister of India
|Chairperson of the Planning Commission
Krishna Chandra Pant
|Minister of Defence