V.P.Singh : My enemy
I first met V.P.Singh when I entered Parliament as an MP in 1974. He was then a Deputy Minister in Indira Gandhi's government. I had already made a name opposing Indira Gandhi's so-called socialist policies (which policies had meant only more only more government control and harassment to the public), and hence as a more prominent MP I took little notice of the then lesser known V.P.Singh. He too was very low profile in Parliament and hardly spoke on any subject even though he was a Minister. Between 1974 and 1980 therefore Mr.V.P.Singh was hardly noticed by anyone.
In 1980, Sanjay Gandhi suddenly made him Chief Minister of UP, because V.P.Singh was during the Janata Government period, a loyal sycophant of Sanjay. In fact on Sanjay's death in 1980 he coined the phrase in Hindi which translated means: "Till there is a sun and moon, there will be Sanjay's name blazing". Many were sickened by this sycophancy. In 1981, he suddenly resigned from the CM's post to boost his image thinking that Mrs.Gandhi, distraught and depressed by Sanjay's death and because of his sycophancy to Sanjay's memory would reject his resignation. But she saw through his game and promptly asked the governor to accept his resignation, and he was out of the CM's post. Thereafter, I again began to see V.P.Singh in the Central Hall of Parliament, this time singing praises of Mrs. Gandhi. Obviously this had its effect on Mrs.Gandhi because soon he was made Commerce Minister. When I got the Chinese to re-open the Kailash Manasarovar route, and was selected by Mrs.Gandhi to be the first Indian to go as a pilgrim to that holy spot in 1981, she sent Mr.V.P.Singh to see me off at the departure point in Delhi. I got to know him better on that occasion, and after that, I met V.P.Singh regularly on some occasion or another in Delhi or Lucknow. But I never became close because I distrusted him.
In September 1986, I had met Rajiv Gandhi prior to my visit to Pakistan. He asked me as to what I thought of V.P.Singh performance in the first GATT conference that had been held in Uruguay. I told him that V.P. Singh had surrendered on all points in the proposed new GATT agreement to the United States, and hence he has become very popular with the American government and media. In fact he was being projected as the next 'Prime Minister' by the Americans. I told Rajiv that the Americans were unhappy with him (Rajiv) because he was increasing defense expenditure in a big way, and the Russians too were not happy because he was ordering purchase of weapons from countries other that USSR. His mother, Indira Gandhi bought all the weapons from the Russians. Rajiv Gandhi nodded in agreement with me in a manner that made me feel that all was not well between him and V.P.Singh. In March 1987, V.P. Singh resigned his Defense Ministership (to which portfolio he had been shifted from Finance in January of that year for approving income Tax raids on Amitabh Bachan) after announcing an inquiry into the purchase of submarines from Germany. Soon he was expelled from the Congress Party. At that moment, I was also an expelled member of the Janata Party, but Chandrasekhar and I were on the point of becoming friends, and I was about to be re-admitted to the Janata Party.
Chandrasekhar had immense dislike of V.P. Singh, and V.P. Singh too sensed Chandrasekhar as a rival to be sidelined. Therefore, one day in early 1988 V.P.Singh invited me for tea, The purpose was to dissuade me from my efforts in making my friend Ajit Singh join the Janata Party, which would strengthen Chandrasekhar. At tea, it became clear that V.P. Singh had teamed up with Ramakrishna Hegde to try and capture the Janata Party. I told V.P. Singh that if Rajiv Gandhi was corrupt, Hegde was ten times more corrupt. I told him that in the HDW submarine deal in which he had as Defense Minister ordered an inquiry, Mr. Hegde too was involved. Hegde as Chief Minister made state Public Sector firm NGEF enter into a collaboration with AEG of Germany, and in the name of supplying torpedoes for the submarines had collected Rs.3 Crores as commission, which was illegal. I also told him of the land racket of Hegde by which his son-in-law got 5000 acres of government land in Bangalore and elsewhere, and about the telephone tapping he ordered of his own Ministers including Deve Gowda.
V.P. Singh told me that he would find out about my allegations. He never bothered to. On the contrary he got even more close to Hegde because Hegde had begun to finance V.P.Singh, Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammed Khan, the Jan Morcha trio, for their political activities. Soon, V.P. Singh and Hegde stepped up their campaign to merge the Janata Party and Lok Dal to form the Janata Dal. At first Chandrasekhar resisted the idea, and so did H.N. Bahuguna of the Lok Dal. But Bahuguna soon thereafter died of a heart attack. Chandrasekhar too lost his nerve when Ajit Singh did a somersault and was left all alone. When the merger was announced, I was isolated as all the big leaders of Janata Party crossed over to Janata Dal headed by V.P.Singh. I was shocked that so many senior leaders who suffered in the Emergency were ready to desert the Janata Party which brought democracy back to the people, and were ready to accept the leadership of V.P. Singh who was a sycophant of the Emergency terrorist Mr. Sanjay Gandhi. V.P.Singh also had stabbed Rajiv Gandhi in the back by using the Finance Ministry to boost his own image. I still remember the sad scene of a 80 year old Kirloskar, a gentleman industrialist with a Masters degree from the world famous MIT, being asked to report to a police station at 2 AM in the morning because V.P.Singh had ordered that he be prosecuted under the criminal law for what turned out to be a minor tax evasion. This boosted V.P. Singh's image as a great crusader against the high and mighty. But V.P. Singh would not treat Ram Nath Goenka on the same principle, because Goenka was opposed to Rajiv Gandhi while Kirloskar was pro-Rajiv.
But people were so shocked by the Bofors scandal, that they overlooked any fault of V.P.Singh. In fact people even began to think that Bofors scam was exposed by V.P.Singh when infact it was a pro-communist peace group in Swedan which was responsible for the expose. Later, another Communist, Ms. Chitra Subramaniam with the full support of yet another CPM sympathizer N. Ram of Hindu newspaper fully exposed the bribery in it. V.P. Singh played no role in exposing it at all. On the contrary, when later I became Minister, and Chandrasekhar made over to me all the Bofors files, I discovered that V.P. Singh as Finance Minister had led the first secret negotiation with Bofors on behalf of Rajiv Gandhi in Stockholm on June 10, 1985. Yet V.P. Singh maintained publicly that he knew nothing about the Bofors deal till it came up for Cabinet approval in March 1986!
The press was so infatuated with V.P. Singh that they refused to publish my press conference where I made this allegation against V.P. Singh. It is not that I am alleging V.P. Singh also received bribes from Bofors, but that he knew all along about the deal. No deal by government of over Rs.50 Crores can be cleared without Finance Minister's approval. This deal was worth Rs.1700 Crores, and V.P. Singh was not only Finance Minister but later Defence Minister as well. He should have known, and he had approved the deal as well, yet he lied to the public that he knew nothing about it. But Rajiv Gandhi was surrounded by persons all whom had benefited by Bofors. So they were all too scared to confront V.P. Singh with this fact before a hostile press. So they bungled and bungled, and finally when the Lok Sabha elections came in 1989, the people defeated the Congress Party.
After V.P.Singh became PM, he began to go slow on Bofors. At first he said that he will reveal all within 15 days. Nothing happened for 60 days. I knew that because of his involvement in the negotiations and his Minister Mr. Arun Nehru's full participation in the bribery, V.P.Singh did not want to speed up the probe. Therefore, I began raising the issue in Parliament in a big way on the delay in the Bofors investigation, and openly charged V.P.Singh and Arun Nehru of being afraid. The net result of my attack was that V.P. Singh went on the defensive. As a consequence, Rajiv Gandhi picked up courage, and even once challenged V.P. Singh to lay on the table of the Lok Sabha all the Bofors papers in the PMO. Rajiv himself told me that because of my attack, the whole climate in Parliament had changed. He said: "If my Congress MPs had one tenth your courage and capacity to speak, we can conquer the world." I told Rajiv that since most Congress MPs were involved in some deal or the other, how can they dare oppose a Prime Minister? He heartily laughed in his innocent way. Ironically, Rajiv Gandhi was pushed into the Bofors deal by Arun Nehru. Now as Minister in V.P.Singh's government, he was prosecuting Rajiv Gandhi. Such a hypocrisy or fraud I have rarely seen even in Indian politics. In late 1990, when I became Minister after toppling V.P.Singh's government, I discovered another fraud case in which V.P.Singh had played a double game : the St.Kitts case.
Dr. Subramanian Swamy ( National President, Janata Party) 1, Papanasam Sivan Salai, Mylapore, Chennai - 600 004. Tamilnadu. Tel : 091 - 044 - 2498 3338 Fax : 91 - 44 - 2498 2886