Born On: June 25, 1931
Born In: Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: November 27, 2008
Career: Political Leader, Poet, Painter
A pivotal figure in the Indian politics, V.P. Singh was responsible for bravely managing the coalition of the Left and BJP against Rajiv Gandhi to dethrone him in the 1989 elections. He is remembered for his magnificent act that he played in 1989 that changed the course of Indian politics by becoming the Prime Minister of India and making the backwards and Dalits eligible for electoral politics. But unlike other Prime Ministers who came after him and made compromises, Singh acted boldly by issuing an arrest warrant against L.K. Advani midway through his rath yatra of Bharatiya Janata Party. By inducing confidence in his people through his actions and not just mere words, Singh had successfully established himself as a person different from other politicians. He took a firm position regarding issues of corruption and secular fabric of the Indian state.
V.P. Singh, or Vishwanath Pratap Singh, was born in the Rajput Gahawar (Rathore) zamindar family of Daiya to Raja Bhagwati Prasad Singh. However, he was adopted by Raja Bahadur Ram Gopal Singh of Manda in 1936, whom he succeeded in 1941 after his death, thereby becoming the 41st Raja Bahadur of Manda. He attained his formal education from Colonel Brown Cambridge School in Dehradun. He came back to Allahabad for higher studies and even went to Poona University. Being a great scholar and educationalist, he founded the Gopal Vidyalaya, Intermediate College, Koraon in Allahabad. Singh served as the President of the Students Union at Udai Pratap College, Varanasi in 1947-48 and as the Vice President of Allahabad University Students Union.
Entry into Politics
V.P. Singh joined the Executive Body of All India Congress Committee at Allahabad University as a member in 1969 until 1971. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh from 1969-71. He served as the Member of Parliament under Lok Sabha from 1971-74, Union Deputy Minister of Commerce from 1974-1976, Union State Minister of Commerce from 1976-1977, and Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha in 1980. After the fall of Janata Dal in 1980, Congress came back to power and Singh was appointed as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh by Indira Gandhi in 1980. However, he resigned two years later accepting his failure on taking necessary actions to control dacoity in the Chambal valley. Since then, Singh managed to urge awareness amongst the common man and in the political world about his cleanliness towards attending issues.
With the Rajiv Gandhi invitation in the 1984 general elections, Singh was appointed as the Finance Minister, wherein he took necessary action to reduce the smuggling of gold by decreasing gold taxes and giving a considerate portion of gold to the police for any smuggled gold found. He empowered the Enforcement Directorate of the Finance Ministry to track tax evaders. Since high-profile celebrities, including Dhirubhai Ambani and Amitabh Bachchan were amongst those raided, Rajiv Gandhi sacked Singh on the context of most of these personalities supported Congress financially in the past. After been discharged from his position, Singh started investigating the murky world of defence procurement. Further, word about him acquiring information on Bofors defense deal spread that could eventually affect the then Rajiv Gandhi’s reputation. Following this, Singh was dismissed from the Cabinet. Thereafter, he resigned from the Congress Party and Lok Sabha as well.
Launch of Jan Morcha and Janata Dal
Singh, along with Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammad Khan, established an opposition party in 1987 and called it Jan Morcha. He defeated Sunil Shastri and was elected to Lok Sabha once again in tightly contested by-election in Allahabad. Later on October 11, 1988, Jan Morcha, Janata Party, Lok Dal, and Congress (S) were merged into a new party titled Janata Dal. This was a step to bring all the parties opposing Rajiv Gandhi government together. V.P. Singh was appointed as the President of the party. Later, other regional parties, like DMK, TDP, and AGP came in to enlarge the party and re-name it as National Front (India). Singh became the convener while N.T. Rama Rao became the President.
Tenure as a Prime Minister
In the 1989 elections, the National Front joined hands with the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Left Front, both serving as anti-Congress votes. Along with its allies, the National Front earned a major win in the Lok Sabha and decided to form a separate government. However, BJP and the Communists refused to serve in the government and opted for support from outside only. In the meeting on December 1, 1989, Singh recommended the name of Devi Lal, in spite of him being a clear candidate against Rajiv. Devi Lal rejected the proposal and suggested that Singh should take on the post of Prime Minister. Surprisingly, Chandra Shekhar, the former head of Janata Dal and biggest rival of Singh opted out of the cabinet. V.P. Singh became the seventh Prime Minister of India on December 2, 1989 and served till November 10, 1990.
Just days after he swore as the Indian Prime Minister, Singh faced his first crisis when the daughter of the then Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was kidnapped by the terrorists. Left with no option, he agreed to release militants in exchange of the female. He appointed Jagmohan, a controversial former bureaucrat, as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir who aroused violence in the Valley on ordering troops to fire on the funeral procession of the unofficial head of Kashmiri Islam, the Mirwaiz. However, in Punjab, he appointed Siddhartha Shankar Roy as Governor who planned fresh elections. Further, he ordered to withdraw IPKF from Sri Lanka and stopped the then Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from starting a border war. On the recommendation of the Mandal Commission, Singh passed a fixed quota reservation for all jobs in public sector for people falling under the historically disadvantaged “Other Backward classes” (abbreviated as OBC). However, this resulted in strong objection from non-OBC youth in urban areas of North India.
In an attempt to acquire control over Larsen & Toubro by the Reliance Group, the government-owned financial institutions, like Life Insurance Corporation of India and General Insurance Corporation delayed the attempts in 1990. As such, the Ambanis resigned from the board of the company. With this, even Dhirubhai Ambani who had just become the Chairman in April 1989 had too also quit and was replaced by D.N. Ghosh, the former chairman of State Bank of India. Meanwhile, BJP was gathering support from Hindu masses and Hindu organizations in large numbers. The BJP president, Lal Krishna Advani, organized a rath yatra to invite more support but was arrested on Singh’s orders before he could reach Ayodhya. As such, Advani proposed the kār-seva (demolition of the mosque and construction of the temple) on October 30, 1990 but was stopped by Singh by planting troops at the site. This led to the suspension of BJP’s support to the National Front government.
Re-launch of Jan Morcha
After Singh stepped down from the post of Indian Prime Minister, he toured India giving public lectures and speeches on matters of social justice and his artistic pursuit, especially painting. But after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, Singh stopped making public appearances. However, with the reduction of cancer, Singh started appearing in public yet again in 2003, particularly in groupings formed by his Janata Dal. But with his caste-based social justice gave rise to another party called Bahujan Samaj Party that focused on caste identities. With this, his idea of populist socialism was kicked out of electoral marketplace. To cure this problem, he re-launched the Jan Morcha in 2006 and appointed Raj Babbar as the party President. Thereafter, he slowly began the campaigning process of gathering support from smaller parties in the north for 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections. With no major wins in the elections, Raj Babbar had quit Jan Morcha and joined Congress. Singh’s elder son, Ajeya Pratap Singh took over the party with hopes of winning in the 2009 general elections. However, in March 2009, Ajeya Singh proposed to merge Jan Morcha with Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Ajeya, along with other members, were absorbed in LJP, with Ajeya being declared as the party Vice-President.
V.P. Singh married Rani Sita Kumari, daughter of Rawat Sangram Singh II of Deogarh, Rajasthan, on June 25, 1955. The couple had two sons, Ajeya Singh and Abhai Singh.
After fighting and struggling with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and renal failure for a long time, Singh died on November 27, 2008 at Apollo hospital in New Delhi. The last rites were performed by his son Ajeya Singh and Singh was cremated in Allahabad on the banks of River Ganges on November 29, 2008. Singh was 77 years old then.
1931: Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
1941: Became the 41st Raja Bahadur of Manda
1955: Married Rani Sita Kumari on June 25
1969-71: Elected to Legislative Assembly, Uttar Pradesh
1971-74: Served as Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha
1974-76: Appointed as Union Deputy Minister of Commerce
1976-77: Became Union State Minister of Commerce
1980: Served as Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha
1980: Appointed as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
1984: Elected as the Finance Minister of India
1987: Formed the Jan Morcha
1988: Formed Janata Dal, with merge of Jan Morcha, Janata Party, Lok Dal, and Congress (S)
1989: Established National Front (India) and became convener
1989: Became the seventh Prime Minister of India on December 2
1990: Stopped L.K. Advani midway on his rath yatra to Ayodhya in October
1990: Tenure as Prime Minister ended on November 10
1998: Diagnosed with cancer
2006: Re-launched Jan Morcha
2008: Died on November 27 in New Delhi aged 77