Tribute to Raghuvansh Babu : A man of deep conviction and a Social Justice Crusader

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By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

One of the tallest leaders of the Socialist movement in Bihar and North India Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh’s sudden death has left a deep void in Bihar politics particularly for those who believed in probity in public life and simple living.

At the time when our politicians and political parties have become high tech and spend crores of rupees on their campaign through social media RaghuvanshBabu, as he used to be called respectably, believed in old school of politics which found strength in connectivity with people at the grassroots. A leader who got polished under the influence of idealism of Lohia, JP and Karpoori Thakur, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh belonged to that breed who showed that ideological convictions can be lived through and cannot be a matter of convenience. It is because of this strength of conviction that Raghuvansh Babu remained with RJD and particularly with Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav throughout his political career even when in the Mandal phase Bihar became a domain of forces of social justice much against the wishes of the Savarnas and his own caste people.

He was not merely a man of conviction but wonderful human being, down to earth and provided maturity to the leadership of his party as well as his ministry with fragrance of the rural hinterland.

Though he has been a student leader, then Minister in Bihar but his real acumen was seen in the UPA-1 where he was given the Ministry of Rural Development. We saw Raghuvansh Babu in Parliament as a powerful voice of social justice and it was under his Ministry that MNREGA became one of the very successful programmes against Poverty.

Since 2005 to 2015 India was able to uplift many millions people from the poverty line. It was his dedication to the cause that he had figures on his tips. During UPA-I, most of his cabinet colleagues were ‘Congress’s ‘secular’ Anglican team friendly with the upper caste media which would often look down upon the earthy people who spoke chaste Hindi. Like LaluYadav, it was a treat to listen to Raghuvansh Babu in Parliament. MNREGA and Mid-Day meal were a flagship programme of the UPA government and benefitted a lot to Congress Party in particular which brought it back to power in 2009.

Unfortunately, RJD lost tremendously in Bihar because of its alliance broke with LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan and got only four seats. Raghuvansh Babu won against the tide apart from Lalu Yadav but somehow when UPA-II was being formed his name was missing from his favourite Ministry. It was found out later that Lalu did not want him even when feelers were sent to him to be part of the same ministry which he served with great accountability and vision.

Raghuvansh Babu made it clear that he won’t accept any central position against the wishes of his party.
Politics is actually art of managing contradictions. There are things of idealism but more than a politician is pragmatic. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh remained a close associate of Lalu Prasad Yadav for over three decades and defended his party. At the time when many comrades of Lalu Yadav left after he found himself in turmoil as opponents forced him into so many cases where he was disqualified from contesting and ultimately found him in Ranchi Jail. This is sad part of politics which has become full of vendetta where personal relationship has no place and being opponent means like an enemy.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar became the biggest threat to forces of parochialism and communalism since 1990s after the Mandalisation process started. The political churning gave rise to political forces which were oppressed and ostracized for long under the dominance of the brahmanical political masters.

Both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had the Brahmin domination in politics. Since Mandal, Bihar never had a Savarna chief minister and Uttar Pradesh could only get now when the forces of the social justices are subdued. In both the states the parties which emerged from the socialist movement were RJD and SP under Mr LaluYadav and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. Uttar Pradesh has another political party from the Ambedkarite stream, BSP while in Bihar, the forces of Brahmanical power created another rift in the OBCs with Nitish Kumar at the helm of affair. Coincidently, in both the states both Laluji and Mulayam Singh ji had two leaders who they trusted a lot, Rajputs by castes, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Amar Singh. Amar Singh was never a leader of masses, nor had he any love for idealism or socialism as his only quality was ‘networking’ while Raghuvansh Babu continued to be a voice for the marginalized and farmers. That is the difference and important for those who come from the privilege of their castes to follow the path of RaghuvanshcBabu and not that of Amar Singh as following the latter will only make you part of power politics without any mass base and ideological strength.

It is said that Raghuvansh Babu was not happy with the state of affairs in RJD and had resigned from the party. There were many other letters purportedly written by him which became the talk of the town. Many are saying that he was not in the perfect mental state to write such letters and that over ambitious family members compelled him to write but one thing is there nobody writes a letter in one day or so. Raghuvansh Babu critiqued LaluYadav in front of him and interestingly Lalu accepted his criticism many times. But now what has happened is that since Mr Lalu is in Ranchi Jail, it is Tejaswi who is running the show. Of course, very much such as AkhileshYadav in Lucknow or for that matter, even Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, the political leaders beyond a certain age, have not been able to digest for these changes. There is a resistance in accepting the young leaders. Having observed all the three, I can vouch that they have new dynamism and do not go in the same styles as their elders have gone. Both Akhilesh and Tejashwi are trying to chart their own new path project them as new modern and forward looking parties. Their parents have been what we call leaders who emerged from ground but these youngsters got better education but of course not the strength of the ground and hence the problems are emerging.

There is no doubt about mass mobilization and political pragmatism shown by the party leaders but it is also important to understand that we are living in the 24X7 media glare where the opponents are using your weaknesses for their political gains. Raghuvansh Babu remained with RJD till end and showed his disinclination to things which could have hurt the party. After all, if history has to be remembered, he opposed RJD alliance with JD(U). He wholeheartedly supported Tejashwi as he knew that party does not have a charismatic leader but Tejashwi can lead by following his father’s connectivity to masses but then there was a turmoil within the party. Lalu Prasad’s strengths have been weakened by the family. Now, there is a brutal reality that when we are in power or vote catchers, nobody questions us when we introduce our family members into politics or power position but when we are out of power and chances look bleak for future, leaders will start questioning such means and speak about democracy.

Congress, SP and RJD are facing it. The Question is not to throw away the families as RJD with Lalu Prasad, SP with Mulayam Singh and Congress without Gandhis will not be able to survive. They will have to work double hard.They are political realities. And not merely they, it is the reality of many other parties. Political families are going to exists but it is the duty of these families to democratize themselves and not to make parties as their personal domain. It is important for the families to disallow any other family member who is not really capable and competent enough to take other along or ideologically committed. There is nothing wrong in people accepting political position but then families have to take call as how many people will it allow from the family to be in the Vidhan Sabha or Lok Sabha. Cant the family members not just devote their time to strengthen the social movement and their ideological part? Cant the family member engage in social work or strengthen the cultural movement of the Dalit Bahujan communities so that people become politically aware?

It is this thing which has damaged all the parties we trust and wish to strengthen. I can bet it is important. Nobody has doubt about Tejashwi Yadav’s capabilities as he is really working hard but the fact is that there is a narrative and it is not merely among the BJP or NDA but many members of RJD too that Lalu’s family discords and disputes are damaging RJD as well as unity among the Mahagathbandhan. The challenge today is that the opposition BJP is ready to poach and coopt the leaders of these parties feeling isolated. During the election time they will jump out of it. Many of them were just nothing but they help build a narrative that these parties are unable to take the leaders together. It is important that while the new leadership of these parties explore new ideas and set new agendas and I agree with them as no party can survive on one issue or one caste exclusivism so attempt to bring others is important. But equally important for all such parties is particularly when there are committed leaders like Raghuvansh Babu whose ideological strength of Socialism was second to none, to not make these leaders feel betrayed and isolated.

Old veterans need to be handled with care. Of course, there may be many who might not have done anything except remaining with the party. They might have gained but their loyalties too should be acknowledged and respected. Raghuvansh Babu was far bigger than just being loyal. He was a man of conviction and of great ideas. I can say firmly, that we never had that kind of Minister in Ministry of Rural Development, who loved to work even till late hours and had enormous experiences of the people and communities. The modern day leaders might have ‘knowledge’, ‘language but they need the experience of the old timers particularly those whose experience and knowledge about people can be extremely useful for the party when it comes to power. Whatever may be the reason, Raghuvansh Babu’s letters to Laluji must be taken in that spirit to strengthen the party, make it vibrant and ideologically sound in the idealism of Lohia, Ambedar, Karpoori Thakur, respect those who stood with you and were not ‘completely committed to the ideology of socialism. Raghuvansh Babu was a far superior choice for any party than Amar Singh and hence leaders of these parties should learn a few lessons that such veterans must never be allowed to feel left out.

After the death of Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh tributes are pouring in.. Some are definitely real but many are just using the opportunity to embarrass RJD and that is the irony. Right from Narendra Modi to all politicians of NDA, they spoke highly of Raghuvansh Babu though none of them had time to speak to him when he was ailing or before that. It is supreme irony how politics is deciding who is ‘great’ and who is not. Now Sushant Singh Rajput is gone into oblivion after investigating agencies could find nothing and we have media running after kangana Ranuat, it looks that Bihar’s political circus will use Raghuvansh Babu’s sudden death for the political benefit of those who he opposed so eloquently and powerfully, both inside Parliament and in the street. Socialist movement has lost a stalwart while RJD will not remain the same without Raghuvansh Babu. When celebrity culture dominate political parties and chamchas become advisers, even then, it will be important to acknowledge the criticism for the betterment of the socialist movement and strength of the party. Bihar has truly lost a veteran and his presence will definitely be missed among all specially in the RJD and UPA.

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