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 (Image Courtesy: National Commission for Scheduled Castes)
 
If a Chaiwala (tea seller) can become Prime Minister of the country, what stops a beggar from aspiring for the same coveted post? 
The answer lies in the conspiracy of silence among all political parties on India’s most revolutionary socio-political reform mooted by late V.P. Singh in August 1990. He, as PM, mooted the reform as an add-on to the National Front Government’s decision to implement Mandal Commission Report (MCR). 
The public thus knows Mr. Singh best as provider of 27% reservation of jobs in Central Government and central public enterprises (CPEs) for other backward classes (OBCs) in keeping with MCR.
Very few persons know that he pitched for two vital caste and religion-neutral reforms for the poor as a class without encountering any opposition. He could not implement the two ideas as his Government fell in November 1990 after withdrawal of support by certain parties. 
Mr. Singh’s two crucial forgotten reform proposals are: Reservation of 40% of seats in Parliament and State Assemblies for the poor and fixation of 5-10% jobs quota for poor in the Central domain.   
Even Chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat, has not mentioned this unfinished reforms agenda set by Mr. Singh.
 
Clarifying the decision to implement MCR in Rajya Sabha on 9th August 1990, Mr. Singh stated: “If 40 per cent of the people are below the poverty line, in the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha and Assemblies, we can reserve seats for the poor to that extent. In Rajya Sabha, in Lok Sabha and in the Assemblies, we can really speak for the poor to the extent. These will be the real social changes which history will expect of us.”
He continued: “If there is a consensus of the House, we from the Government side are ready to bring forward Constitutional Amendment Bill. It will necessitate constitutional change for which we do not have the majority. But certainly, with your support, we have made four changes. We can make the fifth one also which the coming generations will remember.”
Mr. Singh added: “Let us forget that the poor are begging for some crumbs. They have suffered it for thousands of years. Now they are fighting for their honour as a human being.”
Late Sita Ram Kesri, longtime Congress Party Treasurer and later its President, instantly welcomed Mr. Singh’s idea. 
An MP then quipped: “What about the Leader of the Opposition?”
Mr. P. Shiv Shanker (Congress) replied: “I have thumped the table. What more do you want?
Mr. Singh later thanked the House for supporting the proposal. He stated: “I think it is very happy moment for me. It is one of the happiest moments. I did have to muster a lot of courage to say it.” 
In October 1990, PM wrote a letter to leaders of all parties in both houses of Parliament, articulating his proposal to reserve 40% seats in all legislatures. 
Noting that numerous initiatives to ameliorate the lot of poor have failed to significantly reduce poverty, Mr. Singh observed: “All this has pushed the poor further into a state of hopelessness and the feeling that they are not masters of their own destiny.” 
Explaining the rationale for his reservation proposal, he wrote: “No more should we perpetuate the giver-taker relationship that has been institutionalized in our society where the poor are the mere “receivers” of certain State-funded “benefits” without having any real say in decision-making.”
He continued: “This would call for the realisation that the problem of poverty is not just one of economics alone, but it is, in truth, one of sharing of power in the political economy of the country. We should now think of a strategy and mechanism by which the poorest of the poor can reach out to the sanctum sanctorum of power where decisions affecting them are made.”
Concluding his soul-stirring letter, Mr. Singh stated: “This suggestion (40% seats reservation) was welcomed by several member of Parliament. We now have to debate this issue seriously and generate a consensus so as to make this idea a reality.” (See three-page text of the letter for more). 
In another clarification on Mandal Commission report in Rajya Sabha on 27th August, 1990, Mr. Singh stated: “At the same time, the Government is equally concerned about the future of our Youth in general. In the Rajya Sabha, there
was a suggestion from the Members to provide reservation for the poor over and above the reservation for the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, and I had said that we would sympathetically consider some reservation for the poor, irrespective of social groups. This was reiterated by the Finance Minister, Prof. Madhu Dandavateji in the intervention in the Lok Sabha. We propose to provide an additional reservation of 5 per cent to 10 per cent for the poor, irrespective of social groups, entirely on the basis of appropriate economic criteria, after taking the sense of this august House.”
Does Prime Minister Narendra Modi have the gumption to take Mr. V.P. Singh’s caste-neutral agenda for making poor equal partners in decision-making and development? 
Three-page Text of Mr. V.P. Singh's letter to leaders of all political parties:
 
 
 
 
 
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