Former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a founding member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal who enjoyed respect across the political spectrum,was cremated at his native village here on Monday with full state honours. Singh (74) had breathed his last at AIIMS, New Delhi on Sunday, more than a week after being admitted to the ICU with post-COVID complications.
Leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav and stateministers Neeraj Kumar and Jai Kumar Singh were among the hostof dignitaries present at the ghat here along the riverGanges, about 55 kms from the Vaishali district headquartersof Hajipur, where the deceased leaders younger son ShashiShekhar lit the funeral pyre. Elder son Satya Prakash Singh was present on theoccasion.
People joining the funeral procession including thoselending shoulders to the arthi (bier) were in face mask inview of COVID pandemic. Loud chants of "Raghuvansh babu amar rahein" rent throughthe air amid gun salutes and guard of honour.
Fellow villagers who used to fondly call him by the name"Brahma Baba" for his simple lifestyle and plain speaking weresaddened by demise of the mathematics professor-turned-politician. Singhs body was brought to his native district in themorning, in a huge procession that commenced from Patna wherethe mortal remains had arrived the previous night.
Tejashwi Yadav, RJD supremo Lalu Prasads younger son andheir apparent, had rushed to the airport where a large numberof the late leaders admirers had reached to pay their lastrespects. "You left us alone", exclaimed a visibly shaken Yadav,whose meteoric rise in the party and his alleged indifferencetowards the veteran leader, four decades his senior and aclose aide of his father, had led Singh to step down as theRJDs national vice president a couple of months ago.
He announced his exit from the party, through a letter hepenned while on the hospital bed, last week. Yadav later also rushed to the state assembly wheretributes were paid to Singh, who had been a member of bothhouses of the legislature for multiple terms.
Prominent among those who had arrived at the assembly wereChief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister SushilKumar Modi and Vidhan Sabha Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary. Before being brought to his native village, Singhs bodywas taken to the "Vaishali Garh" a historical place which issaid to be the seat of power of the worlds first republicbesides having a prominent place in the life of the Buddha.
Singh had represented Vaishali in the Lok Sabha five timeson the trot but failed to retain it in 2014 and could notwrest it back in the general elections last year. Local residents give him full credit for the "BuddhaSmriti Stupa" which is being built in the district over anarea of 72 acres at an estimated cost of Rs 432 crore.
He had served as the minister for rural development inUPA-1 government, and is often called the "architect" of MGNREGA.