Column | Can RCP Singh do a Shinde for BJP in Bihar?

RCP Singh. Photo: Manorama Online.

The long-expected exit of R C P Singh from the Janata Dal (United) has churned the political pot once again in Bihar.

The simmering differences between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his larger ally, the BJP, has intensified with the exit of Singh, who was till recently the Union Steel Minister.

What makes the feud interesting is that this year close aides of strong regional leaders are in news for all the wrong reasons.

Singh was seen as a Trojan horse of the national ruling party working against CM Nitish. He was first denied the renomination to Rajya Sabha and then was forced out of the Union cabinet.

The last straw for him was when he was asked to provide details of properties acquired by him, his children and their spouses ever since he became a Rajya Sabha member in 2010.

Singh, a former IAS officer who served as private secretary to Nitish when the latter was the Union Minister of Railways, has quit the party saying it stooped too low to finish him off. He pooh-poohed Kumar's prime ministerial ambitions saying even if Nitish takes seven births, the big chair will elude him.

Singh was resented by the politicians in the party even as he first took charge of Chief Minister's Office in 2005 when Nitish first came to power, and later was entrusted with control of the party.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. File photo: PTI

He was first made state unit president and later the national general secretary incharge of the organisation. He was blamed by many party leaders for the poor performance of the party in the last assembly elections where the alliance scraped through against a strong challenge from the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress combination.

But Singh's proximity to BJP leaders, especially Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah became talk of the town in Patna, even as he failed to take steps to reconcile the two parties.

Nor did he take any special interest in pushing Nitish's favourite proposals as a Union minister. Not only was Singh forced out of the central cabinet, but JD(U) decided it would not have a replacement.

A similar case in Odisha
In recent times, another IAS officer who rose too high and then fell from grace was Pyaari Mohan Mohapatra, who was the right-hand man of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Naveen Patnaik. (File Photo: IANS)
Naveen Patnaik. File Photo.

Even cabinet ministers were referred to Mohapatra by the CM and he was accused of being the one-man kitchen cabinet.

He was elevated to the Rajya Sabha and given important party positions. But fissures developed and Mohapatra was kept out of the CM's inner circle. Later he was expelled from the party and he plotted a rebellion. But he could not create any impact as Patnaik enjoyed solid support of the party grassroots and no MLA went with the rather unpopular Mohapatra.

After making feeble attempts to form his own party, he receded to the sidelines of the state politics until he passed away in early 2017.

Since Mohapatra did not have any political following even the BJP was not interested in him even though it is a party which wants to grow both by the organic and inorganic methods.

Organic route is by the enrollment of youth and grooming the most talented. The inorganic method is to break opposition and even friendly parties, take away key leaders by persuasion or fear of investigations and then give them important positions.

Utility factor
The fate of R C P Singh in Bihar too would depend on his capacity to be the catalyst to break Janata Dal (United) by wooing two-thirds of MLAs from Nitish's side.

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde along with rebel Shiv Sena MLAs arrives for a special session of Maharashtra Assembly, at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai, Sunday, July 3, 2022. Photo: PTI

Then he can become another Eknath Shinde and even be propped up as chief minister. Shinde broke the Shiv Sena, brought down its coalition government in Maharashtra, and is now the chief minister.

But Shinde had strong grassroots experience and great networking among Shiv Sena MLAs.

Partha Chatterjee' fate
Some right-hand men of political leaders are in trouble not because they have lost the faith of their leader but because of investigative agencies pouncing down upon them.

West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee being produced at a court after he was arrested by ED officials in connection with its investigation into the teacher recruitment scam, in Kolkata, Saturday, July 23, 2022. PHOTO: PTI

Partha Chatterjee was the man whom Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee trusted the most in her long career and used his political skills extensively.

He was the man at the centre of the party maze in Kolkata, who was available for organisational demands. He was the go-to man for businessmen, contractors and officials also, who had work with the temperamental chief minister.

The Enforcement Directorate raids on the houses of Chatterjee and his aide which unearthed cash worth crores of rupees have made the chief minister keep the distance, saying law will take its course.

But Chatterjee's greed has sullied the blemishless record claimed by Mamata and can open the door for questioning of the chief minister by the Enforcement Directorate.

Predicament of two other powerful aides
Two politicians, who claimed to the right-hand men of their leaders — Nawab Malik of the Nationalist Congress Party and Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena — are also in Enforcement Directorate custody.

Representational photo
Representational image. File Photo.

It was Raut who vigorously took on the BJP for his leader Uddhav Thackeray, doing much of the political talk during Thackerey's two-year-plus term as the Maharashtra CM.

The rival faction of Shinde has blamed Raut as the bad courtier who spurred Uddhav to give up his father Balasaheb Thackeray's principle of keeping away from positions of power.

There has been silence from Matoshree, the residence of Uddhav and his son Aditya, about the travails of Raut.

Malik, again the articulate and aggressive spokesperson of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), went after central investigative agencies and the central government.

Now he is in custody on charges of money laundering for the Dawood Ibrahim gang.

Kejriwal's confidante too in trouble
In Delhi, the triumphant Arvind Kejriwal, who wrested Punjab for the Aam Aadmi Party from the Congress, finds the heat being turned on his closest associate and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday inaugurated a yoga and meditation programme Delhi ki Yogshala. (Credit: Twitter)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Photo: IANS/Twitter

Kejriwal himself has been saying that he has strong information that Sisodia would be the next to be arrested by the central agencies as an act of vendetta.

This follows the arrest of another colleague, Satyendra Jain, who has been accused of money laundering before he became a minister in the Delhi government.

But a defiant Kejriwal has entrusted more portfolios to Sisodia, and is more aggressively touring Gujarat to take on the BJP which has been in power for long in the coastal state.

In Karnataka
Zamir Ahmed Khan, close aide of Siddaramaiah, the Congress strongman in Karnataka, has been summoned for questioning by the anti-corruption bureau, even as the latter's fans spent more than Rs 50 crore to celebrate his 75th birthday.

Thus the heat of scandal and corruption is hitting the men behind the thrones in several states.

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