Be­ing on Right Side of RSS Helps

One of the few BJP lead­ers who main­tains his own web­site, Singh has care­fully nur­tured his im­age as party heavy­weight. He was one of the most vo­cal sup­port­ers of Naren­dra Modi

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics Modi -

Many con­sider him the ben­e­fi­ciary of good for­tune with a ca­reer that has seen dra­matic up­swings and a che­quered past in elec­toral bat­tles. But Ra­j­nath Singh’s strong bond with the RSS, which he joined as a 13 year old, has al­ways skewed things in his favour.

One of the few BJP lead­ers who main­tains his own web­site, Singh has care­fully nur­tured his im­age a party heavy­weight. He was one of the most vo­cal sup­port­ers of Naren­dra Modi as the BJP’s Prime Min­is­te­rial can­di­date when there was a great deal of de­bate within the party about whether the 2014 Lok Sabha poll cam­paign was be­com­ing too cen­tred around one per­son­al­ity. But with Modi com­ing to power at the head of a re­sound­ing ma­jor­ity, Singh’s in­clu­sion in the cab­i­net is seen as just re­ward for his sup­port. Still, while he may nomi- nally be the num­ber two in the cab­i­net, he’s un­likely to play the kind of key role that LK Ad­vani did when Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee was Prime Min­is­ter. But Singh also wanted to en­sure that his stature would be recog­nised. That’s why it was be­ing said in the last few days that he wanted to stay on as party chief and not join the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The rea­son­ing was that he should ei­ther be among the top two min­is­ters or opt out. This po­si­tion­ing by Singh, a keen prac­ti­tioner of re­alpoli­tik, in fact gave him much more weight when be­ing con­sid­ered for a berth in the min­istry. The son of a farmer from a vil­lage in Chan­dauli district, Singh’s jour­ney has been a sto­ried one. The for­mer Mirza­pur col­lege lec­turer has been chief min­is­ter of Ut­tar Pradesh and is a two-time pres­i­dent of the BJP. A firm be­liever in astrol­ogy, he charts his moves only af­ter con­sult­ing the horo­scope and his astrologer Sud­han­shu Trivedi, whom Singh ap­pointed as a na­tional BJP spokesper­son.

Singh has out­grown sev­eral con­tem­po­raries and se­nior BJP lead­ers in his home state of Ut­tar Pradesh such as Kalyan Singh, Kal­raj Mishra and Lalji Tan­don. In fact, he used to ride pil­lion with Mishra on a scooter go­ing from vil­lage to vil­lage dur­ing their early years in the RSS and the Janata Party.

Singh first shot into the lime­light in 1991 when, as ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter in the Kalyan Singh govern­ment, he in­tro­duced the Anti-Copy­ing Act, cracking down on ram­pant copy­ing by stu­dents dur­ing Class X and XII board ex­ams in the state. A true Sanghi, he also in­tro­duced Vedic Maths in the cur­ricu­lum of staterun schools.

In 1997, as state BJP pres­i­dent, he played a key role in sav­ing Kalyan Singh’s tot­ter­ing govern­ment by en­gi­neer­ing de­fec­tions in the Congress, BSP and Janata Dal. But though the Kalyan Singh govern­ment man­aged to sur­vive, Ra­j­nath Singh was seen as med­dling too much in state govern­ment af­fairs and was moved out as min­is­ter for sur­face trans­port in the Va­j­payee govern­ment.

But Kalyan Singh was soon on his way out af­ter openly re­belling against Va­j­payee. Af­ter a brief stint in the job by Ram Prakash Gupta, Ra­j­nath Singh be­came chief min­is­ter in 2000. Un­til then, Singh had not won any di­rect elec­tion to the Vid­han Sabha or Lok Sabha, al­ways be­ing nom­i­nated to the up­per house. On be­com­ing CM, he stood a n d wo n a s a n MLA from Haider­garh. But his stew­ard­ship was short­lived -- in the 2002 as­sem­bly polls, the BJP was beaten badly, pushed into third po­si­tion.

But Singh’s stature had started grow­ing and his Sangh con­nec­tions held him in good stead.

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