Former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha has been named as the joint candidate of the opposition for the Presidential elections, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said during a meeting of opposition parties today (21 June).
In a clear indication that he is likely to be picked as the opposition candidate, Sinha had tweeted earlier in the day that he is relinquishing his Trinamool Congress (TMC) membership.
Announcing his resignation, Sinha tweeted, "I am grateful to Mamata ji for the honour and prestige she bestowed on me in the TMC. Now a time has come when for a larger national cause I must step aside from the party to work for greater Opposition unity. I am sure she approves of the step."
The 84-year-old leader will face an uphill task of mounting a challenge to BJP's candidate. The election for the office of the President of India is scheduled for 18 July and the counting of votes, if needed, will be done on 21 July.
Sinha was pitchforked as the opposition candidate after Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi declined to jump into the fray.
A Short Profile
Sinha, who began his career teaching political science at Patna University, joined the IAS in 1960. He spent over 24 years in the bureaucracy. He served as a sub-divisional magistrate and district magistrate in various districts of the then undivided Bihar.
Early in his career, Sinha was known for his acerbic tongue. When the then Bihar chief minister Mahamaya Prasad Sinha rebuked him in public, Yashwant Sinha protested and then retorted "I can become a chief minister some day, but you can never become an IAS officer.”
A close follower of former prime minister Chandrasekhar, Sinha quit IAS and plunged into politics in 1984 by joining the Janata Party. After the Janata Party, Lok Dal and Jan Morcha of V P Singh merged in a bid to oust Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government, Sinha was appointed as the general secretary of the newly-formed Janata Dal.
Due to his proximity to Chandrasekhar, Sinha was denied a ministerial berth in the V P Singh government that came to power in 1989. Along with his mentor Chandrasekhar, who was seething in anger at being outwitted by V P Singh in the prime ministerial race, Sinha played an instrumental role in cobbling together an arrangement between a breakaway faction of Janata Dal and the opposition Congress party.
With the outside support of Congress, Chandrasekhar became the prime minister. He served as Union finance minister in the short-lived Chandrasekhar government between November 1990 and June 1991.
Inheriting an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement by Congress governments under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Sinha's first stint in the Finance Ministry saw the Indian economy facing a grave economic crisis as it struggled to even finance its essential imports, especially of oil and fertilisers.
Unable to repay official debt, India was about to default. The country’s foreign exchange reserves were hovering at $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion (today the reserves are over $596 billion) and that was not enough to meet the country’s import needs for even three weeks. In late 1990, the Reserve Bank of India had to pledge 46.91 tonnes of gold with the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan to raise $400 million.
Sinha was relegated to relative obscurity with the advent of Narasimha Rao-led government in 1991.
While in his autobiography 'Relentless', Sinha claims that Rao invited him to defect to the Congress party, eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta suggests that Rao was no fan of Sinha. In one of his column, Gupta quoted Rao as saying "Bhai, I am no Yashwant Sinha that if my party loses, or does not want me, I move on to somebody else with boria-bistar (bag and baggage)."
In the run-up to the 1996 Lok Sabha election, Sinha hopped onto the BJP bandwagon. He was fielded from Hazaribagh Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar and won. He repeated the feat in the 1998 election as the BJP-led coalition was voted to power.
While Jaswant Singh was prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's pick for helming the Finance Ministry, Sinha landed the job. He was a compromise candidate as a section of Sangh opposed Singh regarding him as an unfettered free-market ideologue.
While Sinha implemented many reforms during his stint as finance minister, he also earned the dubious distinction of being called "Rollback Sinha" due to many policy announcement reversals he had to do, sometimes due to resistance within the ranks of the BJP. Sinha was later moved to External Affairs Ministry when Vajpayee could have his way and install Singh in Finance Ministry.
Sinha was defeated from Hazaribagh (now in the newly-formed Jharkhand state) in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. However, he re-entered Parliament in 2005 after BJP nominated him to Rajya Sabha.
Sinha emerged as one of the leading voices of the BJP-led opposition. He was a bitter critic of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who he once termed "an overrated economist and an underrated politician."
Sinha also was at the forefront of opposing the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's nuclear deal with the United States.
While he was re-elected from Hazaribagh in 2009, Sinha was not given the party ticket in 2014. Instead his son Jayant Sinha was fielded from the seat. Jayant Sinha won and later served as minister of state in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet.
Dismayed at his marginalisation in the party and the government, Sinha turned a bitter critic of Modi and the party. In 2018, he quit the BJP, citing the "party's condition" and that "democracy in India is in great danger".
In the run-up to the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, Sinha joined TMC to fight against BJP.
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