RCP Singh, a 1984-batch IAS officer, became close to Nitish Kumar, then Union railway minister, while serving as his private secretary. He subsequently quit the bureaucracy and joined the JD(U). Things began going sour between the two after Singh was made Union minister in 2021
On Sunday, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) raised quite a few eyebrows when it announced the name of Kheeru Mahto as a candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls rather than party bigwig and Union minister RCP Singh.
Even more interesting was the fact that JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh and parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha said that the candidature of Kheeru Mahto, the Jharkhand unit chief of the party, was approved by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Asked about Singh remaining a minister in the Union Cabinet, the JD(U) leaders remarked cryptically “we have nothing to say in the matter. It is the prime minister’s prerogative”.
Singh was inducted into the Union cabinet only last year. His tenure in the Upper House ends in June.
Also read: Explained: How elections for the Rajya Sabha polls are held
Let’s take a closer look at Singh, once the protégé of Kumar and why he was snubbed by the JD(U) chief:
Rise to power
Singh is a 1984-batch IAS officer.
He rose to the post of the national president within a decade of joining the JD(U), an elevation party colleagues call ‘meteoric’.
As per Hindustan Times, Singh served as Kumar’s private secretary when he was Union railway minister. That was the time they developed a close relationship. He subsequently resigned his post and joined the party.
“He was from the UP cadre, but because of his proximity to Kumar he was appointed as principal secretary to the chief minister. This led to heartburn among the bureaucracy in Bihar. Subsequently, when he was made party president, many in the political circles were surprised by his sudden rise in a party that Kumar runs like a tight ship,” said a senior JD(U) functionary.
Singh was said to have Kumar’s ear, playing a critical role in deciding whom to give tickets for elections.
“There was a time when he was literally running the party. He was appointed as the national general secretary and then the national president. Many assumed that he would be taking over the reins of the party and that by giving him decision-making positions, Nitish Kumar had nearly picked his successor,” the functionary said, as per the report.
What went wrong?
Things began going sideways after Singh was appointed a Union minister in 2021.
As per The Print, according to party insiders, Kumar was not happy when BJP made Singh a Union minister.
It was rumoured that Singh negotiated the ministry post for himself, by undercutting Nitish Kumar’s demand for four representatives from the JD(U).
Indian Express quoted party insiders as saying Singh paid the price for showing too much proximity to the BJP and diluting the party’s stance on the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and special status for Bihar – both issues on which JD(U) disagreed with the BJP.
As per The Print, Singh’s proximity with Union minister Bhupendar Yadav – who Kumar blames for his sour relationship with the BJP high command is also to blame.
Lately, Singh also ignored several functions held by the Bihar chief minister at his official residence, like an ‘Iftaar’ party, as per the report.
‘Fate in hands of PM’
Singh on Monday thanked Nitish and said his fate would be decided by the prime minister.
“At present, the party and our leader Nitish Kumar have not asked me to step down from the post of Union Minister. My current tenure as Rajya Sabha comes to an end on July 6. I will go to New Delhi and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His decision would be final. He has the privilege to retain me as Union minister.
“I was Rajya Sabha MP for 12 years representing JD-U and I am thankful to my leader Nitish Kumar. I worked honestly on whatever responsibility was given to me. I became union minister at the Centre following approval by Nitish Kumar. I did not make any decision including my selection as Union minister.”
The Union Minister of State for Steel had recently sought to repudiate the impression that he did not get along well with his party colleagues. He had also scoffed at speculations that Kumar was unhappy over RCP having got inducted into the Union cabinet “without approval”.
“If some people think it is possible for anybody in JD(U) to land a ministerial berth without the nod from the CM, our de facto leader, they should try their luck,” RCP Singh had told reporters sarcastically.
History repeats itself
This is hardly the first time the Bihar chief minister has sidelined a powerful ally.
As per Indian Express, the list includes George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav, and Digvijay Singh. Kumar’s protege and former Rajya Sabha MP Upendra Kushwaha also faced his ire after they had a falling out in 2007. He returned to the JD(U) in 2009 only to quit it in 2013 and float his own party. After the outfit failed to make much headway electorally, Kushwaha again returned to the JD(U) fold last year, as per the report.
With inputs from PTI
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