Sunday, 30 November 2008

V. P. Singh passes away
Vishwanath Pratap Singh (Hindi: विश्वनाथ प्रताप सिंह), India’s tenth prime minister, had been fighting against leukemia since 1991. On 27th November 2008 he lost the fight and passed away at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India. His close associate Wasim Ahmad said: "The end came at 2.45 PM.” Singh leaves behind his wife Sita Kumari and two sons Ajeya Singh and Abhay Singh. Though his term in office was short (5th Dec. 1989 to 10th Nov. 1990) he was regarded as one of the most honest and socially oriented politicians the Indian union ever has had as leader.

You may ask, why does this blog, which is dedicated to Monarchy and royal families, commemorate an Indian politician? Answer: Because he was an Indian Royal!

Born on June 25th, 1931 at Allahabad, Shri V. P. Singh was the son of Raja Bahadur Ram Gopal Singh. In 1936 he was adopted by the then Raja of Manda, Bhagwati Prasad Singh of Daiya, a Gaharwar Rajput and head of a princely estate near Allahabad.
He ascended to the throne as 40th Raja of Manda in 1941 on the death of his adoptive father and according to Indian Royalists, he remained Raja of Manda until his death in November (see scan):

He was educated at Allahabad and Poona Universities. He was married to Smt. Sita Kumari on June 25, 1955 and they had two sons. A scholarly man, he was the proud founder of Gopal Vidyalaya, Intermediate College, Koraon, Allahabad. He was the President of the Students Union at Udai Pratap College, Varanasi in 1947-48 and was the Vice-President, Allahabad University Students Union. He actively participated in Bhoodan movement in 1957 and donated a well-established farm in village Pasna, District Allahabad.

A politician with a mission to help the Indian poor
In an obituary published in The Age on 29th November 2008, there was no mention of his royal descend, that would not have fitted into the republican policy of The Age. What value does an obituary have that suppresses important parts of the deceased's life? However Melbourne’s daily newspaper gave praise to the former Indian prime minister's policy: “… He won kudos for championing the rights of the caste-conscious country’s poor, as well as the minority Muslim population.” Popularly known as the 'Mandal messiah', he pulled out the long forgotton B.P. Mandal Commission's report from a dusty government almirah and went on to implement its recommendations, giving 27 percent job reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The middle class, whose support first catapulted V. P. Singh to power as he campaigned against corruption in the Bofors gun deal, loved to hate him, and did not forgive him till the end. The Raja of Manda’s coalition government came to an end, when the support of the BJP-Hindu nationalists was withdrawn in 1990 and he no longer had a majority in the Lok Sabha (Indian House of Commons).

After his downfall he turned towards painting and writing poetry. On his own website he explained his turn towards the arts:

“The visual always fascinated me. As I grew up, I slowly realized that we not only see through our eyes, but also from the heart. Feeling is living. Beauty is Understanding. I was overwhelmed by the harmony of creation. My youth was one rapturous communion with nature. The ecstasy is gone but fragments of its memory, still, at times, shimmer, to give a sudden insight. My paintings are such fragments. Yes, they are fragments because my life is so.”

Indian Royalty play an important part in the country's politics

V. P. Singh was only one of many members of Indian Royal Families who entered politics. In 2004, my favourite Indian newspaper, The Hindu, published an article by Vinay Kumar on this phenomenon.

"More than three decades after [Indian Royalty] were stripped of their royal privileges by Indira Gandhi, they still continue to dominate public life, in some way or the other.

"With elections round the corner, former Rajas, Mahants and Nawabs are all set to enliven the poll arena in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh. They are jumping into the electoral fray for various reasons: some of them see this as a way of protecting whatever remains of their royal legacies; others see it as a way to further their political careers. But the fact is that they are here to stay.

"It was from this belt that V.P. Singh, the Raja of Manda, emerged to occupy the office of the Prime Minister. He is not the only one to have made it big in politics — there have been others such as the former Raja of Kalakanker, the late Dinesh Singh, elected from the adjoining Pratapgarh parliamentary constituency, who served as a Union Minister during the Congress regime. His daughter, Rajkumari Ratna Singh, represented the same constituency in the Lok Sabha in 1996 and in 1999. In 1991, Abhai Pratap Singh, better known as Bade Raja of Pratapgarh, won the seat on a Janata Dal ticket. His father, Ajit Pratap Singh, won from here in 1962 and 1980. Truth to tell, royals have always dominated the electoral scene in Pratapgarh. Yet another scion of Pratapgarh's ruling family, Vijay Bhushan Singh alias Babbu Raja, has also unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls.

"'There was a time when royals built schools and shelters for the people and opened their granaries to them in times of crisis. In due course, several of them entered politics and won elections purely because they were so respected. But that is no longer the case; politics is no longer a noble profession. It is only a means to advance one's own interests,' says Raja Bhaiyya, who hails from the royal family of Bhadri and became an MLA from Kunda in 1993."

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