RCP Singh not the first, Nitish has shown others who’s the boss

Snub to R C P Singh is not the first time Nitish Kumar has handled any sign of dissidence with a strong, precise hand. In a state with bigger mass leaders, it is this that has helped the Bihar Chief Minister seize control of the ruling Janata Dal (United) and retain it.

Thus, when Nitish decided to snub Singh, Union Minister of Steel, and instead nominate the party’s low-profile Jharkhand president Khiru Mahato to the Rajya Sabha on Sunday, it came as no surprise. Singh, who was once the unquestioned number two in the party and seen as Nitish’s possible successor, joins a list of former Union ministers and veteran socialists who found themselves out of the party after getting into the Bihar Chief Minister’s bad books.

The list includes George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav, and Digvijay Singh. The CM’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.

According to party insiders, RCP Singh, a former bureaucrat, 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. On both the issues, the JD(U) disagreed with the BJP.

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George Fernandes

Fernandes was Nitish’s mentor but that did not stop him from getting Sharad Yadav to become the JD(U) president in 2004 to reduce the veteran socialist’s influence in the party. The CM’s relationship with Fernandes deteriorated further before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the former Union minister wished to contest the polls from Muzaffarpur despite not keeping well. Fernandes had won Muzaffarpur from prison in 1977. But Nitish did not agree and denied him the ticket. An enraged Fernandes left the JD(U) with a handful of supporters and contested the polls independently. He lost his security deposit while the JD(U)’s Captain Jainarain Prasad Nishad won the constituency. A few months later, the JD(U) persuaded Fernandes to go to the Rajya Sabha and did not field any candidate against him. Fernandes died in Delhi in January 2019.

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Digvijay Singh

Fernandes’ associate and former Union minister Digvijay Singh, who used to represent Banka in the Lok Sabha, also did not get along well with Nitish. In 2009, the Bihar CM denied him the ticket from Banka and gave it to Damodar Rawat. For a victory in Banka, Nitish depended on his governance record and a change in the constituency’s profile following delimitation. But Singh claimed that he was “more popular in Banka than the CM any time” and backed it up by winning the seat by more than 30,000 votes. The JD(U) finished third. Singh died in London the following year after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Sharad Yadav

Yadav, who claims to have introduced Nitish Kumar to former Bihar CM and Janata Party icon Karpoori Thakur, fell out with the CM over his decision to return to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in July 2017. An upset Yadav spoke out against the move. He had just been nominated to the Rajya Sabha at the time and his defiance cost him the seat. Yadav joined RJD a few months ago.

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