Former Uttar Pradesh CM Kalyan Singh passes away

Senior BJP leader Kalyan Singh.  

Former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh, who died aged 89 on Saturday, personified the BJP-RSS’ blend of caste and Hindutva, which helped the saffron party achieve ultimate power in the State, first riding on the Ram Mandir movement which also fractured old communal and political equations in the country’s most populous State. It was under Mr Singh’s watch that the Mughal-era Babri Mosque was demolished by a mob of ‘karsevaks’.

The Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences on Saturday evening in a statement said Singh, who had been admitted there on July 4 in critical condition, died due to sepsis and multi-organ failure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “saddened beyond words” by Kalyan Singh’s death, and described him as a statesman, veteran administrator, grassroots level leader and great human.

“He leaves behind an indelible contribution towards the development of Uttar Pradesh,” Mr. Modi tweeted, stressing that “generations to come will remain forever grateful to Kalyan Singh Ji for his contributions towards India’s cultural regeneration.”

Even while Singh served as Governor in Rajasthan from 2014, in U.P., the BJP tried to cash-in on his Hindutva credentials and iron-fist policy on law and order, a model replicated in a new form under the Yogi Adityanath government since 2017. In October 2016, while campaigning in Etawah, Amit Shah, then BJP chief, promised U.P. that if the BJP came to power, it would replicate a “Kalyan Singh-type of government.” Though Mr. Shah referred to Kalyan Singh’s government in the context of law and order, to highlight the poor situation under the Samajwadi Party government, the import was not lost on anyone as Kalyan Singh’s rule was best remembered — even leading to his resignation as CM on “moral grounds” — for the Babri Masjid demolition.

“During the Kalyan Singh government, the goons were either under the ground or in jail. Kalyan Singh government introduced U.P. to good law and order,” Mr. Shah had then said.

Such was his political significance for the BJP that over the past two months, each time senior BJP leaders from Delhi visited Lucknow in preparation for the 2022 Assembly polls, they made sure they paid a visit to the hospital and to enquire about Singh’s well-being.

Born into a Lodh Rajput (OBC) family in Atrauli, near Aligarh, in 1932, Kalyan Singh was groomed in the ideology of the RSS and in 1967 was first elected to the State Assembly as a Jan Sangh candidate. He went on to win from the seat several times, later on a BJP ticket, becoming Chief Minister of U.P. twice, the first of which would be remembered for the Babri Masjid demolition. Though Singh resigned over the incident, he expressed no guilt over it and in a speech after the demolition outlined his conviction that he would never order firing on the karsevaks, winning loud applause from the audience. Last year, when he lost constitutional impunity after demitting office as Governor, he appeared as an accused before a special CBI court in Lucknow hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case. Kalyan Singh pleaded innocence and claimed that his government had taken solid measures, including a three-tier security system, for the protection of the Babri Masjid.

A Special CBI Court in Lucknow last September acquitted Singh along with other senior BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders including Lal Krishna Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case for lack of credible evidence. But the episode not only undeniably planted his image as a Hindutva OBC face of the BJP in the State in the 1990s during the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple movement but also altered the socio-political equations going head-to-head with the emergence with Mandal politics.

Apart from being the CM of U.P., Mr. Singh also served as the Governor of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, and in September 2019 after completing his term was re-inducted into the BJP with which he shared a bitter and sweet experience over a long politic career. Singh left the BJP for the first time in 1999 after his verbal attacks on then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before returning to the saffron fold in 2004 and contested successfully from Bulandshahr. In 2009, he left the BJP again due to differences over distribution of tickets and joined hands with the SP but soon parted ways with Mulayam Singh.

In March 2014, Singh, then independent MP from Etah, returned to the BJP months after he shared the dias with Mr. Modi in Kanpur at a rally and an outfit formed by him merged with the BJP. He credited his return to his parent outfit to the “Modi wave” in the country and alluded it to as a free running “Ashmavedha horse.” Asked if he was moved by ‘Mission Modi’ or ‘Mission Mandir’, Singh had then told reporters: “Ram Mandir is in the agenda of every Hindu.”

The PM said he spoke to Kalyan Singh's son Rajveer Singh, MP from Etah, and expressed condolences. Mr. Modi said Kalyan Singh gave voice to crores of people belonging to the marginalised sections of society. “He made numerous efforts towards the empowerment of farmers, youngsters and women,” the PM said, stating that Kalyan Singh was “firmly rooted in Indian values and took pride in our centuries old traditions”.

In his tribute, Chief Minister Adityanath hailed Singh as an able administrator. “The ideals presented by him during his tenure are still serve as a standard,” he said.

Singh’s grandson Sandeep Singh, who was born in 1991 on the day when he first took oath as a CM, is the Minister for Technical Education and Medical Education in the Yogi Adityanath government.

President Ram Nath Kovind condoled Singh's demise, saying he had a “magical connect” with the masses.

Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu described Singh as a nationalist and an exemplary leader.

Uttar Pradesh has announced a three-day mourning and a holiday on Monday, when the former chief minister's last rites will be performed.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Singh had dedicated his life to the nation, religion and people.

“The country and the entire BJP family are mourning his death. This nation and future generations will always be indebted for his immense contribution,” he said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Kalyan Singh was a very popular chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who left an indelible mark on politics.

People associated with the Ram temple movement, including Champat Rai, Vinay Katiyar and Ramvilas Vedanti, expressed condolence over Kalyan Singh's demise.

Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu and spokesperson of the party's state unit Ashok Singh also condoled the death of the veteran BJP leader.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati expressed grief over Singh's demise.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav also paid tributes to the departed BJP leader in a tweet.

Singh is survived by his wife Ramvati Devi, son Rajveer Singh, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Etah, and grandson Sandeep Singh, who is the minister of state for finance, technical education, medical education in Uttar pradesh.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 4:42:22 PM |

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