‘NYAY’ is Just a Dole: RJD’s Raghuvansh Singh Who Steered MGNREGA Has Big Plans for the Scheme
Former Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh says MGNREGA 'creates jobs and assets' and is determined to give the scheme a boost.
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh at a public meeting in Kanti on Patna-Motihari road.
Vaishali: A CPI(ML) flag flutters alongside Rashtriya Janata Dal’s laltein (election symbol) as a carefully chosen array of speakers take podium one after the other. The line-up is representative of the caste alliance which the mahagathbandhan has sought to stitch against the NDA in Bihar — Kushwaha, Mallah, Nonia et al.
However, the RJD candidate in Vaishali— former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh — is an upper caste Rajput. The man was Rural Development Minister and is credited with the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Raghuvansh Babu, as he is popularly known, was one of the four MPs who won in 2009. The Congress wanted to make him a minister but his party vetoed.
“The list sent to Rashtrapti Bhawan had a blank against the Rural Development Minister. Despite efforts till the last moment, the RJD did not relent,” says a party leader close to Singh.
“It would have been highly opportunistic on my part had I taken up the ministership against my party’s wishes,” he says, waiting for actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha’s arrival for a public meeting at Kanti on Patna-Motihari road.
So what does he think about Congress’s NYAY scheme which promises a stipulated sum every year to the poor?
“MGNREGA is better. It is not a dole. It creates jobs and assets,” he declares categorically.
“If we come to power, our effort will be to expand the scheme to provide for MGNREGA support for work on not only public but private land,” Singh says.
Shortage of labour for agriculture was an issue which emanated out of the implementation of MGNREGA and there was a proposal during UPA1 to make statuary changes to the act.
It is another matter that joint secretary Aparajita Sarangi, who drafted the proposal in the Rural Development Ministry, is a BJP candidate from Bhuvaneshwar Lok Sabha seat. The amendment was turned down by the Planning Commission.
Raghuvansh Singh won the 2009 election but lost the one after that during the Modi wave. This time, he’s pitted against the wife of a local strongman, Dinesh Singh. Veena Singh is contesting here on Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party as part of the NDA alliance.
At a local roadside eatery, a motley group is discussing how the elections will pan out before the voting. Will the Rajputs split between two caste candidates? How will the Bhumihars vote considering they are traditionally on the other side of the upper caste divide? And most importantly, is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his image overwhelming just about everything else in this election?
“Dinesh Singh has won elections in the past with excellent management. He used to do the same for Raghuvansh Babu once. His wife lost the last assembly poll due to some local issue. But Dinesh Singh and his family have never lost the polls,” says a very senior BJP leader from the region.
Candidate selection seems to be an issue weighing on the minds of the voters here. A comparison between the booming voice of Raghuvansh Singh in the LS vis a vis Veena Devi is something which the electorate here will mull over in the next few days. This constituency has a history and a reputation.
After all, this is the place where the seeds of the first republic in the subcontinent were sown more than two millennia back when Mahajanpadas came together to form a confederation. It is the land of Lord Mahavira. Where Buddha is said to have given his last sermon.
The choice for the electorate this time is between Veena Singh and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
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