Way back in 1993, announcing his induction in the BJP, party veteran LK Advani had projected Yashwant Sinha as a “Diwali gift” for the party.
From holding high positions in the BJP-led NDA during the AtalAdvani era the former bureaucrat has navigated through twists and turns of Indian politics as the Opposition’s primary contestant against the NDA’s Draupadi Murmu in the presidential poll. The irony doesn’t end here! Sinha was among those who batted for Narendra Modi as the party’s “most suitable’ face for the Prime Minister during the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Even after he emerged as Modi’s vocal critic after leaving the BJP under Modi, he is not the unanimous choice of the Opposition. The Left parties are openly critical of him. Other nonBJP parties like the BJD and the YSR Congress are noncommittal.
While the NDA is expected to face no hiccups in the polls, Sinha’s candidature carries huge symbolism for both his former party as well as the Opposition that is looking for a moral stand against the Modi Government. Sinha’s first stop after resignation from the IAS in 1984 was the Janata Party and he became a Rajya Sabha member in 1988.
When the Janata Dal was formed in 1989, he was appointed General Secretary of the party. He worked as Minister of Finance from November 1990 to June 1991 in the Chandra Shekhar Cabinet.
After joining the BJP in 1993, he became the national spokesman of the party in 1996. After his glorious days in the BJP, his sidelining started post-2005, when he joined voices against his mentor Advani over the Jinnah episode. The ten long years of the BJP in the Opposition, with Advani himself rendered irrelevant by his inability to capture power, saw Sinha recede further into the shadows.
The final rupture had come following Modi’s ascendance in the BJP, with Sinha taking him on publicly, before eventually leaving the party in 2018 saying that in its present form, it was “a threat to democracy”. Since then, Sinha, 84, a threetime Lok Sabha MP from Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh constituency, has been unsuccessfully trying to revive his political career.
He took up causes such as Kashmir as part of a ‘Rashtra Manch’ with like-minded leaders, and wrote an autobiography, Relentless, in 2019, before finally finding refuge in the Trinamool Congress.
It was TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s lead in rallying the Opposition around a joint candidate that finally led to Sinha being picked. While he might have been the fallback choice, after Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah and Gopalkrisna Gandhi decline, Sinha will welcome this new breath of life. Sinha was born into relative affluence, with his father Bipin Bihari Sharan having a flourishing law practice.
He obtained a Master’s degree in Political Science in 1958 and subsequently taught the subject at Patna University from 1958 to 1960, before joining the IAS. He served long years in Bihar in various capacities, as well as a representative of the Government abroad.
While he moved on to other parties, Sinha refers to Chandra Shekhar as his “political guru”. But it was against Chandra Shekhar’s advice though that he joined the BJP, While Sinha may have moved on from the BJP and active politics, his son Jayant remains a part of the party and is an MP from his father’s former constituency Hazaribagh. In the last Modi Government, Jayant Sinha was a Union Minister of State.
So what could Sinha be aiming for with this latest political leap? As he writes in Relentless, “This habit of taking calculated risks survives till date.”