Former prime minister V.P.
Singh, the Mandal messiah, dies
Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) Former prime minister Vishwanath Pratap
Singh, who gained renown not so much for his governance as
for affirmative action that radically altered the political
map of India, died Thursday afternoon.
77-year-old Singh breathed his last in Apollo Hospital after
battling a kidney ailment and blood cancer for more than a
anti-corruption crusader, he was seen by many as a messiah
of social justice who opened up opportunities for the lower
and lower middle class strata of society, and was reviled
by others for sharpening caste cleavages in Indian society
with his Mandal politics.
was a thinking leader of independent India. He was not only
a politician but a statesman who wanted to bring about social
change in Indian society,” Shahid Siddiqui, senior BSP leader
and Rajya Sabha MP, told IANS.
would call him a social reformer. His demise is a loss for
India and all those who stand for a secular and equitable
India,” siddiqui said.
has an important place in the history of Indian politics.
The work done by him for the poor and the backwards is a major
contribution to Indian society,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, senior
BJP leader, told IANS.
was a harbinger of social engineering,” Naqvi said.
Singh served as finance minister and defence minister in the
Rajiv Gandhi government before he turned against him and resigned
over the issue of alleged payoff in the purchase of Bofors
guns. He campaigned on the issue of corruption and probity
in public life.
1989, snatching victory from the jaws of the Congress which
had come to power in the 1984 elections with two-thirds majority,
Singh formed the National Front government and ruled the country
from December 2, 1989 to November 10, 1990. In those days,
Singh was being called “Mr. Cleaner” to Gandhi's much-touted
“Mr. Clean” image.
August 1990, Singh decided to implement the recommendations
of the Mandal Commission that reserved 27 per cent of the
jobs in central government for the so-called other backward
classes (OBC) who comprised 52 percent of the Indian population.
was a move that elicited a backlash from the urban, high-caste
youth who saw job quota as a challenge to their educational
and career prospects and which radically re-altered political
equations in the country.
controversial decision to get Bharatiya Janata Party leader
L.K. Advani arrested in 1990 over charges of fomenting communal
tension at the height of the movement over a Hindu temple
in Ayodhya led to the withdrawal of the BJP's support to the
V.P. Singh-led Janata Dal government.
prime ministerial tenure, lasting less a year, is mostly remembered
for his policy of extending reservations to OBCs, tussle with
powerful corporate interests and his decision to arrest Advani,
which turned out to be his nemesis.
on June 25, 1931, in Allahabad, Singh is one of few Indian
politicians whose reputation for integrity has survived the
pressures of partisan politics. Even his critics concede Singh
his reputation for clean personal conduct and a streak of
idealism, which many found irksome.
1982, Singh resigned as chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's
largest state, when he failed to live up to his self-imposed
deadline to crush gangs of bandits in the state.
by Indira Gandhi after her return to power in 1980, Singh's
administration earned respect for its honesty and his spirited
attempts to curb dacoity and thuggery in the state.
the last decade or so, Singh, a scion of the family that ruled
the principality of Manda, near Allahabad, reinvented himself
as a painter and a poet and continued to be a bridge builder
among political parties opposed to the Congress party.
also cast himself in the mould of an elder statesman in the
succeeding governments of H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral.
In 1992, Singh was the first to propose the name of the future
President K. R. Narayanan as a candidate for vice-president.
years ago, Singh's 75th birthday celebrations turned into
a major meeting point for leaders across the political divide,
ranging from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Ram Vilas Paswan
to the Communist parties' A. B. Bardhan and Sitaram Yechuri.