He was Minister of State for Energy in Karpoori Thakur’s government in 1977 and remained active in the Bihar Assembly till he fought his first Lok Sabha poll in 1996 when he was made Minister of State in the Union government
Former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, 74, passed away on Sunday morning in New Delhi after a prolonged illness. He had been admitted in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in the second week of August with post COVID-19 complications. He was under treatment for lung infection and was put on ventilator on September 6 after his condition worsened. He is survived by three children.
Also read: Raghuvansh Prasad Singhs condition worsens, put on ventilator
The five-term Lok Sabha MP representing Vaishali had been in the news recently despite his illness for expressing his disenchantment with the way his party for 32 years, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), was being run and handwritten letters, attributed to him, were being circulated as his resignation from the party.
Former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad, whose trusted lieutenant Mr. Singh had been since the late 1980s, referred to those letters in a heartfelt tweet : I said just day before that your were not going anywhere, but you have gone so far away! I am speechless at this loss, I am upset, you will be missed. It was his earthy good nature and simplicity however, that was the hallmark of his character according to many who knew him including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who paid tributes to the late leader while inaugurating a series of projects in Bihar on Sunday morning.
Mr. Singh, a Ph.D in mathematics was one of the few Rajput leaders in the RJD who entered politics as part of the socialist ideological school and was made Minister of State for Energy in late Chief Minister Karpoori Thakurs government in 1977 and remained active in the Bihar Assembly till he fought his first Lok Sabha poll in 1996 when he was made Minister of State in the Union government.
Also read: Man who steered MGNREGA has no grouse
His political fame of course grew parallel to his electoral victories, the biggest part of it being his support of the then largely unknown Mr. Lalu Prasad for the post of Bihar Chief Minister in 1989. While then Prime Minister V.P. Singh supported Ramsundar Das, Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal supported Mr. Lalu Prasad who carried the day as the harbinger of a new politics of social justice. Mr. Singh, stuck to Mr. Yadav through thick and thin of politics, including the latters incarceration in the fodder scam and extending support to Rabri Devi as Chief Minister of Bihar.
In his Delhi avatar, Mr. Singh was most known for steering the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the UPA governments flagship programme as Minister for Rural Development (2004-09). From striking a balancing act between reform-minded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the more rights-based NGO approach of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), it was the sincerity of Mr. Singh, his ability to reel off relevant statistics by heart, and his earthiness that carried the day and managed to land the law into the statute books.
You are anti-rural, anti-poor would be a common refrain from him towards North Block while struggling with financing the MGNREGA, but his interventions always came through. In 2016, when Congress marked 10 years of the MGNREGA, Mr. Singh was absent from the festivities. He did not hold a grudge however, satisfied that he had seen the law through to implementation. Haani, laabh, yash, apyash, vidhi haath (profit, loss, fame, notoriety are all in the hands of fate), he had said at that time to The Hindu.
Despite losing the 2014 and the 2019 polls, Mr. Singh was active in helping out during the Nepal blockade of 2016. His sanguine approach to not getting enough credit for MGNREGA did not extend to the way his own party was behaving lately, however, and he had been raising the banner of revolt. In the middle of this revolt, however, fate intervened.