From HT Archives: VP Singh sworn in as PM, decade-long Congress rule ends | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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From HT Archives: VP Singh sworn in as PM, decade-long Congress rule ends

By, New Delhi
Dec 02, 2023 06:52 AM IST

Vishwanath Pratap Singh was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister of India in 1989. He named Devi Lal as his deputy and ended Congress-I's rule.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh, leader of the National Front parliamentary party, was sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister of India by President R Venkataraman at Rashtrapati Bhavan on December 2, 1989, amid scenes of wild enthusiasm and much goodwill from all present on the occasion.

VP Singh, then Janata Dal president, addressing a crowd in Lucknow in a photo from February 24, 1989. (HT Archive)
VP Singh, then Janata Dal president, addressing a crowd in Lucknow in a photo from February 24, 1989. (HT Archive)

The new Prime Minister sprang a surprise by naming Devi Lal, the Haryana chief minister, as the deputy Prime Minister, and the only other member of the Union Council of Ministers to take oath with him.

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The ceremony was attended by Vice President Shankar Dayal Sharma, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, his erstwhile Cabinet colleagues, National Front chairman NT Rama Rao, West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, Karnataka chief minister Veerendra Patil, BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, CPI(M) general secretary FMS Namboodiripad, CPI general secretary C Rajeshwar Rao, and a large number of leaders of political parties as also newly elected members from the non-Congress-I parties.

The swearing in of VP Singh as Prime Minister ended the nearly 10-year-long Congress-I rule at the Centre, which began on January 15, 1980, when the Congress-I, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, returned to power with a huge majority in the December 1979 elections, unseating the Janata Party-S government led by Charan Singh.

The National Front Prime Minister put up with the jostling and pushing at the adjacent hall with mediapersons mobbing him.

Also to be mobbed in the hall were Rajiv Gandhi, Buta Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, cinestars Shatrughan Sinha and Raj Babbar -- the last two had canvassed extensively for the former Opposition parties.

VP Singh is the eighth Prime Minister of India taking Indira Gandhi’s continuous terms of 1966-1977 and 1980-84 as two separate regimes. He is also the third non-Congress-I PM, the other two being Morarji Desai, who was in office from March 1977 to July 1979, and Charan Singh, who remained in office from August 1979 to early January 1980. Gulzarilal Nanda acted as the PM on two occasions -- in May 1964, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had passed away, and again in 1966 after Lal Bahadur Shastri’s sudden demise in Tashkent in the Soviet Union on January 11. Incidentally, all these leaders were originally Congressmen who left the party or were expelled under various circumstances. Only two of them -- Desai and Nanda -- were from outside Uttar Pradesh.

Singh does not have balmy days awaiting him in the weeks to come. For one thing, his Cabinet is not yet complete and it is still an open question if the parties supporting the National Front -- the BJP and the Left parties -- will join the government. For another, the Punjab problem still stares him in his face, and the price situation too is not something that can be swept under the carpet.

Singh is believed to have gone into a conclave with party colleagues to tackle the problem of Cabinet formation.

This is independent India’s first multi-party government at the Centre, and even with all goodwill, people at large are apprehensive about this experiment but nevertheless want it to succeed unlike in 1977 when the Morarji Desai government was brought down by people belonging to his own party.

That the task of Singh will be an onerous one was indicated by the absence of Chandra Shekhar from the swearing in ceremony. The “young Turk leader of yesteryear” was not too happy with the election of Singh as the Prime Minister, and made his views known publicly.

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