gfiles magazine

March 21, 2017

Long shadow of the past

– by Shubhabrata Bhattacharya

GOVERNANCE in India continues to suffer the populism unleashed in 1980s by Vishwanath Pratap Singh in his bid to seize power. A junior politician till Sanjay Gandhi took fancy to him, VP Singh was pitchforked as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980. Singh’s tenure in UP was marked by encounters against dacoits; the phenomenon called Phoolan Devi (a Backward, Mallah by caste, who killed Rajputs) was the byproduct of Singh’s populism. Unfortunate slaying of Singh’s brother by dacoits put an end to the nightmare and he quit as the Chief Minister. As Union minister, thereafter, he flagged the Bofors issue. This unsolved CBI case cost Rajiv Gandhi power and Singh rode to power on his slogan, “Paisa khaya kaun dalal?” As the Prime Minister, identity of the “dalal” eluded him. His regime, backed by the Left and the Right political forces, was threatened when BJP unleashed the Ram Mandir agitation and LK Advani’s rath rolled from Somnath.

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