VP Singh regime marked watershed in Indian polity

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New Delhi, Nov 27 (UNI)Less than a year-long regime of Vishwanath Pratap Singh as Prime Minister marked a watershed in Indian polity as he implemented the Mandal Commission report, reserving jobs for backward classes.

It drove BJP leader L K Advani to launch a 'rath yatra', culminating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the rise of 'Hindutva forces' that dethroned Congress as an erstwhile single largest ruling party.

Call it his quick decisiveness or knee-jerk reactions, Singh was apt to tread strange paths which normally politicians were wary to traverse. He resigned as Chief Minister of India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, just after dacoits struck in the state.

Later, Singh resigned as Cabinet Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government in the Centre over the issue of kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal in 1987. Earlier, he assumed senior positions in the Rajiv Gandhi regime as Commerce Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister.

After quitting the Rajiv Gandhi government, Singh floated the Jan Morcha and actively campaigned against the Bofors deal before dislodging the Congress in the general elections towards the end of 1989.

Singh merged his Jan Morcha with the Janata Dal, a constituent of the National Front government which came into power at New Delhi with outside support of BJP and Left parties. And Singh headed the National Front Government assuming the office of Prime Minister on December 2,1989.

He had a troubled period as Prime Minister as the political parties extending support from outside continued to adopt policies, inmical to the politics and programme of the National Front.

Singh was, however, quick to counter his detractors by announcing the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations in August 1990, officially recognising the caste-criteria for determining reserving of the government jobs for socially and economically backward people.

Singh's move generated a fast reaction in some political circles and Mr Advani launched his 'rath-yatra' whipping up the 'Hindutva forces' accusing the National Front (NF) government of fragmenting the Indian society on caste-lines. But, the Janata Dal leaders backed Singh asserting that the caste was a reality of the country for centuries and Hindutva forces were attemtping to gloss over it to protect the minuscule high castes' control over the country's administration machinery and economic resources.

As Mr Advani's 'rath yatra' reached Samastipur in Bihar after several weeks , the Lalu Prasad government there arrested the BJP leader.

Thereafter, the BJP withdrew its support to the NF government and it fell on 10 November, 1990 restricting the stint of Singh as Prime Minister to three weeks less than a year.

But his troubled regime triggered realignment of the social forces for justice, leading to the fierce politicalisation of scheduled and backward castes which were to assert as base-vote bank and a reckoning political force thereafter.

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