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
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.