Yashwant Sinha | The political journey of the Opposition’s Presidential candidate

Trinamool Congress vice-president Yashwant Sinha stepped down from all party posts this morning, before being declared the Opposition’s joint candidate for the presidential race

June 21, 2022 04:03 pm | Updated June 22, 2022 01:03 pm IST

A file photo of Yashwant Sinha

A file photo of Yashwant Sinha | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

After three prominent political figures — former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar, and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah — declined the Opposition’s invitation to become the common Presidential candidate for the upcoming polls on July 18, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha has been zeroed in by the joint Opposition to stand for the Presidential elections. TMC vice-president Mr. Sinha, resigned from all party positions on Tuesday morning, hours before the meeting of Opposition parties to declare their comnon Presidential candidate.

The post-BJP era

After being one of the tallest figures in the BJP for nearly two and a half decades, Mr. Sinha quit the saffron party in 2018 alleging that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre was undermining democratic institutions. Declaring that he would be severing all ties with the BJP and “taking sanyas from party politics”, the senior leader had announced his quest to “save democracy”. Being a vocal critic of NDA policies such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the years to follow, Mr. Sinha launched a 3,000 km Gandhi Peace March demanding the withdrawal of the CAA.

In March 2021, ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in West Bengal, the octogenarian leader, citing the democratic cause once again, joined Mamta Banerjee’s TMC. Having served as the Finance Minister from 1998 to 2002 during the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, Mr. Sinha had said while joining the TMC: “The BJP of Atalji and the BJP now are poles apart. Atalji believed in consensus; today’s government believes in crushing.“

In the Parliament and the Union Cabinet

Inspired by socialist Janata Party (JP) veteran Jaya Prakash Narayan, Mr. Sinha had suspended his long career in the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in 1984 and joined the JP, launching his foray into active politics. He successfully contested the Rajya Sabha elections in 1988.

Joining the Janata Dal in 1989, he served as the Finance Minister from 1990 to 1991 in the short-lived administration of late Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar.

Shifting his political affiliation to the BJP in 1992, he rose up the ranks to become the party’s National Spokesperson in 1996. Having successfully contested the Lok Sabha polls from Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh constituency in 1998, he became the Finance Minister in Mr. Vajapayee’s cabinet. Winning his Lok Sabha seat for the second time in 1999 ahead of Mr. Vajpayee’s third term as Prime Minister, Mr. Sinha was subsequently appointed the Minister of External Affairs from 2002 to 2004.

Losing his Lok Sabha seat in 2004, he re-entered the Parliament after winning a Rajya Sabha seat later that year. He became a Lok Sabha MP one more time in 2009 but found himself on the peripheries of the BJP unlike his central role in the Vajpayee era.

A defiant Mr. Sinha went against party lines in 2012 and supported the Congress’ candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential elections. After choosing to give the Lok Sabha mantle from Hazaribagh to his son Jayant Sinha in the 2014 elections, Mr. Sinha decided to end his affiliation with the saffron party in 2018.

Administrative Services career

During his 24-year-long stint in the Administrative Services, he held multiple posts in the Finance and Commerce Departments in Bihar and New Delhi. He was First Secretary (Commercial) in the Indian Embassy in Bonn, Germany in the early 1970s. He also served as the Indian Consul General in Frankfurt for a year.

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