Remembering VP Singh: The Unacknowledged Architect of Social Justice and Secularism

VP Singh's forgotten legacy reclaimed as Tamil Nadu CM unveils statue of former PM, champion of social justice

It was a pleasant surprise to see former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh on the front pages of Manustream Media. Though they would never have given him space in today’s time it was an advertisement provided by the Tamil Nadu government and Bania Brahmin media is ready to do anything for the cash. That is the commitment. I was amazed to see the front page of Dainik Jagran, one of the most communal and hate-mongering dailies in north India which used to abuse VP Singh, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Yadav in the aftermath of the government’s decision to implement Mandal Commission Report. Unfortunately, Mulayam Singh Yadav compromised and sent the owner of Jagran, Narendra Mohan to Rajya Sabha later but look at the attitude of the paper. It is terribly communal and anti-social justice even today. So, VP Singh on the front pages of such newspapers must have given a rude shock to those who were happy with his not being around. So, newspapers were happy to ignore the passing away of VP Singh, in Delhi, on November 27, 2008 as they were busy reporting the Mumbai terrorist attack. They completely ignored his death but today’s advertisement therefore must have shocked them but then they had to take it with a pinch of salt.

While Manustream media or casteist Brahmanical leaders of both BJP and Congress may have a point to ignore VP Singh because he brought the issue of social justice to the mainstream of India which was still dominated by the caste elite, the silence and ignorance of those who enjoyed fruits of power and can be safely said to have benefitted from his policies though Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan remained close to him till the end the real strength to VP Singh came from Karunanidhi who party DMK, organised a massive rally in favour of the Mandal Commission Report when the north Indian leaders were calculating pros and cons of his politics.

More than 35 years have passed since VP relinquished his power but he remains absolutely essential for the politics of social justice and secularism. Unfortunately, the social justice parties in north India started ignoring VP to get the votes of the savarnas. That is why to please the Brahmins and Banias in particular, the Samajwadi party and Mulayam Singh Yadav went out of his way to get them plum posts. The dominant caste journalists always enjoyed the curtsy of the Samajwadi Party. Can you imagine, a person who was twice chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a finance minister of the country, President of Uttar Pradesh Congress, a Defence Minister as well as the Prime Minister of India, does not have anything in the name of memorial in the country. We have a big memorial for Sanjay Gandhi without him being any minister but we don’t have anything for a man who altered the political discourse in the country.

While Congress and BJP can be faulted for the same. The pain and disappointment come from other parties including RJD. For the last 35 years, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had mostly Janata-Samajwadi parivar ruling but they never bothered. I don’t know the politics in Chennai. I am not sure why Lalu Yadav, Tejasvi or Nitish were not invited to unveil the statue of VP Singh. It is obvious that the Congress party might not have liked the idea. Congress’s Brahmanical seculars-liberals have no time for remembering the person as most of them hate the VP for Mandal ‘sin’.

The problem with the Congress party is that it refuses to learn its lessons. I had said many times that had Rajiv Gandhi supported VP Singh when BJP withdrew the support, it would have been a different story today but then Rajiv Gandhi criticised the implementation of the Mandal Commission report on the floor of the house. It was an extremely bad decision. Mandal was an opportunity which Congress lost. After years, Rahul is saying the Caste census but not a single Congress leader repeated it. Except for Siddaramaiah, one does not see the same enthusiasm by Kamal Nath. Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders had no time to say a few good things about VP Singh. Frankly speaking, Congress acted like the BJP at that time when VP Singh was forced to quit. We know how the Brahmanical leaders of the Congress party right from Kalpnath Rai to Ratnakar Pandey, KK Tiwari were let loose like barking at VP Singh. How the media was misused shamelessly (a pattern that BJP is diligently following now) to target VP Singh. So much so that M J Akbar, a favourite of Rajiv Gandhi was asked to write a false story about VP Singh’s bank account in St Kitts. 

Today, the BJP is using the same tactics. Congress needs to learn the lessons. In the VP Congress relationship, it is the Congress party which was the main villain and not VP Singh who remained loyal to Congress ideology and rarely spoke against Gandhis personally.

Whatever the political repercussions, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s one action has made the entire event historical. MK Stalin has proved that he is far more mature than his contemporaries whether in the Congress Party or among the social justice forces. Tamil Nadu has always given due respect and acknowledged the role played by VP Singh. The Dravidian government has put the VP in the company of Dr Ambedkar, Thanthai Periyar, Anna Durrai, and Karunanidhi and it is a big honour. The forces of Social justice in Uttar Pradesh refused initially to acknowledge the VP’s contribution because he was not one among them. It is sad. If we are unable to acknowledge and respect the role played by VP then why would anybody stand up to justice? Stalin’s action made other leaders who enjoyed power in north India, look too small. VP Singh was prime minister for 11 months but his actions shook the power structure. It was he, as a prime minister or man in power, who respected and acknowledged Baba Saheb’s contribution to our country and not only gave Bharat Ratna along with Nelson Mandela but also installed Baba Saheb’s portrait inside the Parliament which was ironically not there. Today, the nation demanded, whether India’s parliament should not have the portrait of VP Singh inside the Parliament. Let the social justice government make a big monument and Smarak of VP Singh in their state as a fitting tribute to the man who was once termed as ‘Raja nahi faqeer hai, desh ki taqdeer hai’. VP Singh certainly deserves better from all of us who believe in social justice and secularism.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The author is an activist and is currently working on Impact of Ganga and its tributaries in the Himalayas and the plains of India

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