Days after creating ripples in Bihar politics by deciding to quit his parent party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh passed away at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, on Sunday morning following breathing complications for last one day during treatment post Covid-19. He was 74 and is survived by his two sons and a daughter.
Incidentally, the demise of the mathematics professor-turned-politician, fondly known as ‘Brahma Baba’ for his off the straight talk and simple lifestyle, was more dramatic coming just three days after he stirred the political poll plot in Bihar quitting the RJD.
Apparently, his RJD exit came over his marginalisation in the party. He wrote an emotional letter to jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad to “forgive him after standing behind him for 32 years after death of Jannayak Karpoor Thakur( former chief minister of Bihar)”. Singh was a prominent Rajput face in the RJD and had opposed the induction of his rival and strongman Rama Singh, a former Vaisali MP, in the RJD.
There were speculations the five term Vaisali MP could join the ruling Janata Dal ( united) after his recovery. But that was not to be. The last rites of the departed leader will take place on the banks of Ganga in Vaisali on Monday with full state honours after his body is flown in from New Delhi and taken to his native village, Panapur Shahpur in Mahnar, Vaisali today, according to close aides.
Also read: The importance of Raghuvansh Prasad Singh
Politicians and leaders across the country condoled Singh demise. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a video conferencing event on Sunday, paid rich tributes to the veteran socialist stating that his death had created a void in national and Bihar politics and called him a leader who understood poverty and dedicated his life to stand for his ideals and principles. President Ram Nath Kovind too condoled Singh’s death along with Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan.
PM Modi also made an oblique reference to Singh’s resignation from the RJD three days back, saying the leader was going though “Manthan ( introspection)” about how he couldn’t continue with those he had stayed long and worked. “Raghuvansh ji had expressed his sentiments in a letter 3-4 days back. But he was equally concerned about the development of Vaisali and expressed it in series of letters. I will urge chief minister Nitish Kumar that we try to fulfill his sentiments in his last letter,” PM Modi said.
The PM also recalled his long association with Singh referring to his interaction with the latter in TV debates and also as Gujarat CM when the veteran socialist was serving as Union rural development minister in UPA-1 government. The CM Nitish Kumar also extended regret on Singh’s death. “Singh was a grassroots leader, a prominent socialist. His death is a personal loss to me and an irreparable loss for political, education and social fields,” Kumar said.
In series of letters written by Singh from his hospital bed in his last few days, he demanded from the Bihar CM that work under the job scheme should be allowed on the land of general farmers so that farmers get more work by making necessary changes through an ordinance.
In his political career spanning over four decades, the Singh’s socialist high point was his stint as rural development minister in UPA-1 government when he had piloted the implementation of MGNREGA under the then PM Manmohan Singh.
He had also demanded that alms bowl of Lord Buddha should be brought to Vaisali from Kabul Museum and national flag should be hoisted at Vaisaligarh on Independence Day and Republic Day to mark the importance of his native district as the world’s first republic.
On the other hand, Lalu Yadav chose to make a guarded response over Singh’s death. Jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad expressed grief and bewilderment over Singh’s death, saying “Raghuvansh Babu. What did you do! Only two days back, I told you that you aren’t going anywhere. But now you have gone so far. I am speechless, saddened. You will always be remembered,” he tweeted.
Leader of opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav also called Singh’s death a personal loss recalling how the departed leader stood by him at his time of crisis and always guided him like a guardian. The RJD, as a mark of respect, has cancelled all party functions for next seven days to mourn the Singh’s death.
Professor Nawal Kishore Choudhary, a political observer, said during his last days, Singh had raised pertinent questions on dynastic politics and there are chances the NDA may try to cash in on his legacy to corner the RJD. “But Singh was a leader who had a pan India image and never assertive of his caste identity. There could be some politics in his name but it would have marginal effect,” he said.
But many in the RJD felt Raghuvansh’s demise has put the party in trouble ahead of the Bihar assembly polls as the former’s bid to denounce dynastic politics in an oblique attack on RJD chief’s bid to promote his son and other family members in series of letters in last few days has given enough ammunition to the ruling JD(U) and BJP to berate the opposition party.