Singh, V. P.

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Singh, V. P. 1931


V. P. Singh is a senior leader of the Janata Dal political party. He was a cabinet minister in the Janata Partyled central government of India from 1977 to 1980, and later he was prime minister of India briefly in 1989-1990.

Born in 1931, V. P. Singh came from a north Indian aristocratic Hindu princely family. His political rise began when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi picked him to be the chief minister of the Hindi-speaking state of Uttar Pradesh, Indias most populous state. When Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming victory in the 1984 national elections, Singh was appointed finance minister by the new prime minister. Known for his honesty and courage, Singh began to crack down on corruption, alienating a number of wealthy supporters of Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress Party. As finance minister, he began investigations into various defense procurements, including allegations of bribes and payoffs in the Swedish Bofors gun purchase contract that threatened to expose even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Because he was a Congress Party member of the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) since 1971, and then prime minister of India from 1989 to 1990, he was instrumental in implementing the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

Singh was dismissed from his post and subsequently left the Congress Party. He started a new party called the Jan Morcha, which later merged with the Janata Party, the Lok Dal, and the Congress Partys socialist faction to form a new party called the Janata Dal. The Janata Dal forged a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the right and the Communist Party on the left and defeated the Congress Party in the 1989 general elections. After various political struggles among the coalition groups, Singh was asked to take the mantle of prime minister of India. His minority Janata Party government was dependent on support in parliament from the Congress Party and the Communist Party. When the Congress Party withdrew its support, the Singh government fell.

Singh was known for his promotion of just causes, calling for justice for Muslims in Kashmir and Sikhs in Punjab while maintaining the territorial integrity of India. After serving as prime minister for less than a year, he faded from state and national politics, especially when he was diagnosed with cancer, which remained in remission in early 2007.

SEE ALSO Caste; Congress Party, India; Ethnic Conflict; Ethnic Fractionalization; Gandhi, Indira; Janata Party; Quota Systems


Chand, Attar. 1990. V. P. Singh and His Politics: New Challenges. Delhi, India: Batra Book Service.

Mustafa, Seema. 1995. The Lonely Prophet: V. P. Singh, A Political Biography. Delhi, India: New Age International.

Shourie, Arun. 1991. The State as Charade: V. P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, and the Rest. New Delhi, India: Roli Books.

Suri, Surindar. 1990. The Rise of V. P. Singh and the 1989 and 1990 Elections. New Delhi: Konark Publishers.

Raju G. C. Thomas