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RPN Singh Needs Just Chat, Chai and Chips to Troubleshoot: What Congress is Losing to BJP

Former minister RPN Singh quit the Congress to join the BJP ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections, on January 25, 2022. (Twitter/@SinghRPN)

Former minister RPN Singh quit the Congress to join the BJP ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections, on January 25, 2022. (Twitter/@SinghRPN)

Sources say it is RPN Singh’s casual and candid communication, particularly over the reasons for the 2019 election loss, that began souring ties between the heavyweight and the Congress.

RPN Singh, or ‘Richie’ as he is called by his friends and supporters, loves his Diet Coke and chips. It is what he offered to journalists while meeting them daily in his office at the Congress headquarters. He is also known to be an avid smoker, but decided to cut down on it when health issues surfaced.

RPN Singh, with his baritone voice, was chosen by Rahul Gandhi as one of the key members of his team. He also shared a warm rapport with Sonia Gandhi, so much so that the Congress president would stay at his family home in Padrauna whenever she visited that part of Uttar Pradesh.

Anyone who meets Singh is charmed by his casual style of chatting. But behind this cool demeanour is a smart strategist who knows this kind of personalised communication and banter works best in the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh. It certainly ensured his victory by a huge margin in the 2004 elections, which also catapulted him to the positon of Minister of State for Home, a powerful post for a new entrant.

It is this casual and humble style that led Rahul Gandhi to choose Singh as the Jharkhand in-charge. Jharkhand is a state known to have many turncoat politicians and it was a massive task for Singh to keep the flock together. Singh shifted base to Ranchi to hit the ground running and parked himself there for months to ensure the Congress-JMM government was formed.

There were times when disgruntled MLAs would come threatening to quit. All Singh did to change their mind was put an arm around their shoulder and whisk them away for tea and snacks. A compromise would be struck over simple samosas.

As RPN Singh charts new territory after quitting the Congress and joining the BJP on Tuesday, it is this kind of approach many feel is missing in the grand old party, even more so now. Master strategists like Ahmed Patel and Pranab Mukherjee are not around. RPN Singh understood the importance of connecting with your target audience and even managed to mingle with the upmarket Delhi crowd as well.

Sources, however, say it is his outspokenness that soured ties between Singh and the Congress. At the 2019 Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting called to conduct a review of the Lok Sabha election loss, RPN Singh was the only Team Rahul Gandhi member to point out that personal attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi had boomeranged.

This came as a shock to the Gandhis, especially Rahul, who had coined the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai Slogan’. While the Gandhis did not say much then, the fact that they were unhappy was apparent. In fact, Rahul Gandhi reportedly told some of his team members that those he thought would stand by him during the polls, did not.

The wedge kept widening thereon. As Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took charge of Uttar Pradesh affairs, RPN Singh was rarely seen in and around her campaigns. There were times when he would get to know of Priyanka’s visit to UP from journalists instead of internal communication. As Priyanka Gandhi curated her new team, many like Jitin Prasada and RPN Singh did not find a space.

When Jitin Prasada defected to the BJP last year, RPN Singh, too, was asked about his next move. “Everyone finds their own calling. Mine is still with the Congress,” he had told News18.com.

One yardstick for who is important for the Gandhis depends on who accompanies them to the Congress headquarters. Ahmed Patel was always seen walking down with Sonia Gandhi. At one time, RPN Singh would accompany Rahul Gandhi. But soon, he was replaced by newer leaders. It was clear to Singh that he would now have to look for a new path and new leaders to walk down with.

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