AN IIT graduate who stumbled into politics to take up the legacy of his legendary father Chaudhary Charan Singh, Ajit Singh would go on to turn out to be a consummate politician who moved effortlessly from the BJP to the Congress, and from the Socialists to Communists — because the scenario demanded — to maintain the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) related above and past its electoral power.
On Thursday, the RLD supremo, who had handed over the baton to his son Jayant Chaudhary, handed away in Gurgaon as a consequence of Covid-19 problems, on the age of 82.
While by no means rising to the heights of Charan Singh, who served briefly as prime minister, the affable and ever-smiling Ajit Singh ensured that the RLD remained a key contender in Hindi-belt politics — retaining its fertile assist base amongst farmers, chopping throughout areas. As not too long ago as February, events in search of to faucet into the farmer anger in opposition to the Centre have been knocking at RLD doorways.
However, Singh was typically accused of utilizing his astuteness and deal-making abilities extra for short-term political survival. And of not permitting ideological rigidities to return in the best way as he sought out companions in his long-nursed dream of a 3rd entrance.
The RLD supremo remained constrained on this as a consequence of his limitations as a frontrunner, notably when in comparison with his father, together with his electoral enchantment not rising past Western Uttar Pradesh and, extra particularly, the Muslim and Jat communities of the area. Over the years, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav received the higher of him and emerged because the undisputed socialist chief of the Hindi belt.
An alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur and Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Singh was working within the US when Charan Singh took in poor health within the early Eighties and suffered a paralytic stroke. With his father hospitalised, Singh returned and took over the management of the Lok Dal (because the celebration was recognized on the time) within the mid-Eighties, and by no means regarded again. In July 1986, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Less than a yr later, after Charan Singh’s loss of life, Singh took over as president of the Lok Dal (A).
Singh’s outdated colleague and senior JD(U) chief Ok C Tyagi remembers him as an unintended politician. “Ajit Singh was not interested in entering politics. But because of the unexpected demise of his father, he had to… fill the vacuum.”
Around 1988, as a number of Janata factions together with the Lok Dal (A) merged to type the Janata Dal, Ajit Singh grew to become its president. Chandra Shekhar was believed to have helped him turn out to be the president to counter V P Singh. However, Singh quickly shifted loyalties and joined arms with V P Singh — within the first of his many somersaults.
In 1989, the Janata Dal received the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, and Singh was touted to be the chief minister with V P Singh’s assist. However, at this stage, Mulayam Singh Yadav — who was to take over as Deputy CM — unexpectedly threw his hat within the ring. After a lot behind-the-scenes drama and political lobbying, Yadav trumped Singh in a secret political poll. Singh may by no means catch on with the SP chief after that within the state.
When V P Singh grew to become the PM after the 1989 elections, he picked Ajit Singh as Industry Minister. With his footprint in UP confined, Singh would from then on serve many stints as Union minister, below totally different governments of various hues.
In the early Nineties, he cut up the Janata Dal and floated the Janata Dal (A), earlier than becoming a member of the Congress headed by P V Narasimha Rao after his celebration was worn out in UP within the 1991 Assembly elections. In 1995, he was made Union Food Minister. In 1996, Singh entered the Lok Sabha for the third time, however quickly give up the Congress and his Lok Sabha membership. He got here again to the House the next yr in a by-election.
In 1999, Singh shaped the RLD. While, on the time, he accused the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP authorities of turning the Kargil warfare into an election concern, two years later, he joined the NDA and have become an Agriculture Minister.
In 2009, a yr after voting in opposition to the Manmohan Singh-led UPA I authorities in a no-confidence movement, Singh flipped once more and joined the UPA. Subsequently, he held first the Chemicals and Fertilizers after which the Civil Aviation Ministry below Manmohan Singh.
Having held on to its base all these years, the RLD lastly buckled below the overwhelming rise of Narendra Modi-led BJP in UP. The celebration drew a clean within the state in each the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and received one out of the 277 seats it fought within the 2017 Assembly polls.
However, these days, in a accident that Ajit Singh would have appreciated, the RLD was being talked of as a substitute once more in western UP, amidst farmer anger over the brand new agricultural legal guidelines by the Centre. Jayant Chaudhary held a sequence of rallies throughout the state on the problem, sharing the stage with, amongst others, Congress basic secretary Priyanka Gandhi.
In certainly one of his final public appearances, Singh himself addressed a kisan mahapanchayat in Baghpat in western UP together with Jayant Chaudhary and BKU chief Rakesh Tikait on February 28, the place he gave a name for farmers’ unity to uproot the BJP authorities.