Ajit Singh has done it again. In a short span of 19 years that he has been in politics, he has been with almost every political party worth its name in Uttar Pradesh. It is likely that the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief will take his party to the Congress camp ahead of the State Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in April-May 2007.
Landing in the Lok Dal as its president in the immediate aftermath of his father, Choudhury Charan Singh’s death (on May 29, 1987), Ajit Singh could establish that consistency in the ideological or any other sense of the term, is not a virtue in politics. It is also a fact that he picked up the strings of this art from his father. It is another matter that Ajit Singh had lived far away, in distant USA when his father was setting up his own empire in Uttar Pradesh.
It will be appropriate in this context to recall the games that Charan Singh played in his political life and the fact that he managed to become the Prime Minister of India that way. A fleeting association with the Congress party until the early Sixties was enough for this down-to-earth politician from Baghpat to realize that his own future will be served better if he left the party. That was the time when the Congress was losing some of its sheen and the opposition emerging into a force.
Charan Singh, a Post-Graduate and also a lawyer, carved out a space for himself by raising the issue of prices of agricultural products and demanding subsidized fertilizers. The time he chose to raise this was when the focus of the central plans were shifting to agricultural growth facilitating the green revolution. In other words, Charan Singh could convince the Jat peasantry in Western Uttar Pradesh, parts of` Rajastan and Haryana that all the changes in government policy and the shift in favour of agriculture were due to his efforts. And this gave his Lok Dal the popular base that the non-Congress opposition could not ignore.
This gave Charan Singh the scope to decide the course of the anti-Congress political platform in Uttar Pradesh and since 1967, he could command a large army of legislators and MPs who were loyal to him in all sense of the term. Charan Singh, thus, could not only become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh twice (though for very brief terms) between 1967 and 1970; he would also decide who the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister would be in 1977. He was the Union Home Minister then.
And all this while, he had no hesitation to align with anyone and everyone he felt like! And after having led an anti-Congress consolidation that way, he had no qualms compromising with Indira Gandhi, to become India’s Prime Minister. It did not matter to him that the Prime Minister’s job came with several strings attached and he had to go out of office without facing Parliament for a day!
This was the legacy that Ajit Singh inherited and from day one, this computer-engineer-turned-politician has not done anything to distance himself from that. His arrival into the Lok Dal set-up (the only consideration for this being his pedigree) led to a split in the party. H.N.Bahuguna, another veteran in UP politics was pushed out by Ajit Singh and the Lok Dal split into Lok Dal (Ajit) and Lok Dal (Bahuguna).
Bahuguna died soon after and Ajit Singh could find himself a place in the Janata Dal. He did not stay there for long because he lost the race for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister to Mulayam Singh Yadav and also picked up a fight with V.P.Singh. Thus came the Janata Dal (Ajit). This helped him become a Union Minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet. He would remain a Congress ally until he lost elections in 1998 from Baghpat.
It appeared that Charan Singh’s son was fading out of the UP political scene. But in 1999, he allied with the BJP and this helped him reinvent a political space in Uttar Pradesh. Ajit Singh, however, was not one who was fascinated with ideology. And the BJP would soon turn a communal party for him. In 2002, he struck an alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav. Recall the fact that his problems with the Janata Dal began with Mulayam Singh becoming the Chief Minister in 1989!
The point in all this is that Ajit Singh has not had to worry about his social constituency every time he decides to relocate himself. Like his father, he is revered by the Jats in Western Uttar Pradesh. They do not bother about their leader being innocent of ideology. All that they want is that Charan Singh’s son must remain an MP and it is better if he is also a Minister. It is not their business to be concerned about the moral aspects involved in the shifting alliances and that too in a manner that defies all canons of political honesty and consistency.