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Published On: Sun, Sep 13th, 2020

Former Union Minister Raghuvansh Pd Singh passes away at 74

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raghuvansh_lalu_20743108NEW DELHI : Veteran Bihar politician and RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh who submitted his resignation letter to Lalu Prasad Yadav on Friday died Sunday morning at AIIMS in Delhi. He was 74 years old. Less than an hour later a shocked Lalu Prasad tweeted: “Dear Raghuvansh babu! What did you do?”
Ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, Singh resigned from RJD on September 10. The senior leader was admitted at AIIMS Delhi where he was undergoing treatment for some health complication. With a handwritten note, Singh conveyed the decision of his resignation to the RJD founder.
Mr Singh tested positive for COVID-19 in June, after which he was admitted to the  (AIIMS) in Patna. He was re-admitted to AIIMS in Delhi, where he was being treated for post-Covid complications.
His condition deteriorated rapidly over the past two days and he was placed on a ventilator. He died at around 11 AM after complaining of breathlessness.
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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who this morning was speaking at the launch of petroleum projects in Bihar, began his speech by paying tribute to Mr Singh. “Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is no more among us. His demise has left a void in the political sphere of Bihar as well as the country,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also told Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “we should try our best to fulfill the spirit that Raghuvansh Prasad has expressed in his last letter”.
“I would urge Nitishji that you and we (the BJP) should try our best to fulfill the spirit that Raghuvansh Prasad has expressed in his last letter. Raghuvanshji had… sent a list of his development works to the Chief Minister of Bihar. (Concern for) the people of Bihar (and) concern for the development of Bihar appears in that letter,” PM Modi said.
A long-time associate of former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Singh rattled Mr Yadav and the RJD on Friday by turning in a handwritten resignation letter.
“After (former Chief Minister and socialist icon) Karpuri Thakur’s death, I stood by you for 32 years, but no more,” he wrote in a not-so-steady hand, adding that he had received love and support from the party.
Mr Singh had been unhappy for some time with the party, which Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav has been running since his father went to jail on corruption charges. Among his biggest concerns was Tejashwi’s move to welcome Rama Singh, who had defeated him in the 2014 general election.
But Lalu Yadav made it clear he was not giving up on his old friend so easily, and sent back a handwritten reply of his own, writing: “…I cannot believe it… First you get better, then we will talk. You are not going anywhere. Know it.”
This morning an anguished Lalu Prasad tweeted: “Dear Raghuvansh babu! What did you do? I told you the day before yesterday, you are not going anywhere. But you went so far. I am speechless. I am sad. Will miss you very much.”
Tejashwi Yadav, also tweeted condolences, saying that Mr Singh had been one of the few to inspire him following his father being sent to jail.
“Respected Raghuvansh babu! A few days ago I spoke to you at said you would come out soon and (we would fight hard together. Only a few people have been giving (me) energy and inspiration after (my) father (went) to jail… you have gone and made me almost alone,” Tejashwi Yadav said.
Singh represented the state’s Vaishali constituency and was the Union Minister for Rural Development in the Congress-led UPA-I government.
A politician of nearly four decades, Singh was widely regarded as an expert in the rural and agricultural landscape of the country and is credited with the conceptualization and implementation of the NREGA (National Rural Guarantee Employment) Act.
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
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  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.
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 latter’s 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 government’s 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..
Despite losing the 2014 and the 2019 polls, Mr. Singh was active in helping out during the Nepal blockade of 2016.
(With Agency Inputs ).


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