All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader in charge of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Kunwar Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh, popularly referred to as RPN, has quit the party. The resignation of RPN Singh is being seen as a personal setback for Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
RPN Singh joined the BJP shortly after he tendered his resignation to INC interim president Sonia Gandhi.
There was a time when RPN Singh — along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Gaurav Gogoi and Deepender S Hooda — was one of the eight ‘Young Turks’ of the INC and an integral part of Rahul Gandhi’s coterie.
However, the relations between RPN Singh, the ‘Raja Saheb of Padrauna’ in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, and the Nehru-Gandhi siblings started souring after the Narendra Modi government nullified in August 2019 Article 370 related to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. While the INC opposed the Modi government’s move, RPN Singh — just like Scindia, Hooda and Prasada — had struck a discordant note, telling the high command to appreciate and be with the public mood.
Subsequently in November-December 2019, RPN Singh, as the INC leader in charge of Jharkhand, had asked the party leadership to refrain from launching a personal attack on Prime Minister Modi during the state assembly election.
Rahul Gandhi, who has been at the forefront of the party’s anti-Modi campaign, is said to have felt “isolated” due to the stance of RPN Singh. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is reported to have stood with her brother.
Though the INC-supported JMM won the Jharkhand assembly election, the relations between RPN Singh and the Nehru-Gandhi siblings never improved thereafter.
The former union minister’s resignation is now raising questions on the leadership quality of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the INC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh. RPN Singh is one of the senior leaders of the party in the state and his resignation comes barely a fortnight ahead of the seven-phase state assembly election commencing on 10 February.
Soon after sending his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi and shortly before joining the BJP, RPN Singh in a tweet said: “This is a new beginning for me and I look forward to my contribution to nation-building under the visionary leadership and guidance of the honourable Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi, BJP president Shri @JPNadda ji & honourable Home Minister @AmitShah ji.”
Priyanka has been tasked with reviving the party’s fortunes not just for the ensuing UP assembly election but also in the 2024 Lok Sabha election as the state returns the maximum 80 out of 543 seats in the Lower House.
His resignation comes on the heels of another party leader from UP itself Jitin Prasada, who quit in June 2021, may raise a question mark over Priyanka for failing to keep the flock together.
RPN Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kushinagar in 2009. He had contested the Lok Sabha election also in 1996, 2014 and 2019 but lost all these. He was an MLA from Padrauna constituency for three terms in 1996, 2002 and 2007.
The BJP may likely field him against former state minister Swami Prasad Maurya, who quit the BJP and Yogi Adityanath government earlier this month to join Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP).
Like all other seven Young Turks, RPN Singh is also the son of former Congress leader CPN Singh. His father was also an MP from Kushinagar (then Hata) and a minister of state for defence in the Indira Gandhi government in 1980.
Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada
Before him, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, who quit the party to join the BJP, are also sons of former Congress leaders.
The resignation of Scindia and Prasada was also a personal blow to the Nehru-Gandhi siblings, particularly Priyanka Vadra. When he quit in March 2020, Scindia was the Congress general secretary in-charge of western UP. His resignation led to the downfall of the Kamal Nath government of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh as 18 party MLAs owing allegiance to him jumped ship.
Subsequently, Shivraj Singh Chouhan returned as MP CM with the BJP coming back to power. Scindia, who had lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election, was sent to the Rajya Sabha and made the civil aviation minister in the Modi government last year.
Jitin Prasada, a prominent Brahmin face of UP, is the son of former Congress leader Jitendra Prasada. He had contested and won the 2004 Lok Sabha election from Shahjahanpur in the state. He won the 2009 parliamentary election from Dhaurahra. However, he lost the two subsequent Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019 from the seat and also the 2017 UP assembly polls.
He switched over to the BJP last year and became a minister in the Yogi government. His resignation was also seen as a personal jolt to Priyanka Vadra.