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Buta Singh: the quintessential politician through turbulent years of Indian politics | India News

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NEW DELHI: With his ear to the ground and his eye on national politics, Congressional veteran Buta Singh was the quintessential politician who navigated through the most turbulent years of Indian politics with skill and diligence, and became at virtual number 2 in Rajiv Gandhi’s government in the late 1980s.
Singh, a prominent Dalit face of the big party and a loyalist to Rajiv Gandhi, died at the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here on Saturday morning after being in a coma for several weeks. He was 86 years old.
In a checkered political career spanning more than five decades, Singh was often at the center of great controversy, but always found a way to recover.
Born into a humble ‘mazhbi’ Sikh family in Mustafapur in the Jalandhar district of Punjab on March 21, 1934, Singh was a member of the Lok Sabha for eight terms, held various positions in various ideological dispensations in the Center and became in Governor of Bihar in 2004..
He rose to national prominence in the 1980s as the only Sikh face in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. He succeeded PV Narasimha Rao as Minister of the Interior in 1986 and served in that position until 1989 when the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi lost the elections.
Before Rajiv Gandhi, Singh was close to his mother and predecessor Indira Gandhi and held various positions in their government. He also played a role in the selection of the new electoral symbol for Congress, “hand,” after the party split in 1978.
But, Singh had to pay a price for his close association with the Gandhis and their positions in successive Congressional administrations: he was excommunicated from the socio-religious order of Sikhs in April 1985 for his role in Operation Blue Star which caused damage. to the Akal Takht, the highest temporary seat of Sikhism.
Almost 10 years after the events in the Golden Temple, he sought atonement and returned to the Sikh fold. In March 1994 he was granted clemency.
Images of him suffering the punishment of dusting his shoes, washing dishes and sweeping floors in the Golden Temple and other gurudwaras, with a plaque around his neck declaring him a sinner, went viral at that time.
He also had his fair share of controversy: over the consecration of bricks for a Ram temple in Ayodhya in 1989 and over the sacking of many state governments during his tenure as Interior Minister.
As the Union Minister of the Interior in 1989, Singh had a role in consecrating the bricks with the inscription of Lord Ram that were brought to Ayodhya for the construction of the temple even when the land was in dispute.
Years later, he had to resign as governor of Bihar after the Supreme Court criticized his role in recommending the dissolution of the state assembly in 2005. He resigned in 2006.
In his early political life, Singh was associated with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). He joined Congress in the early 1960s. He was first elected to the Lower House of Parliament in 1962 from Punjab. Later, he represented the Jalore constituency of Rajasthan in Lok Sabha.
He briefly passed to the BJP and became Minister of Communications in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in March 1998.
He was indicted in the JMM bribery case in 1998 and had to resign as the Union’s communications minister thereafter.
However, he returned to Congress and was appointed Governor of Bihar.
A prominent Dalit leader, he started as coordinator of the Harijan cell of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1973-74, after which he became secretary general of AICC in 1978.
Singh became Deputy Minister of the Union, Railways in 1974 and Deputy Minister of the Union, Commerce in 1976. In 1980, he became the Minister of State, Transport and Maritime Transport of the Union and also received the portfolio of sports (independent position ) in 1982.
In 1983, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi elevated him as cabinet minister for parliamentary affairs, sports and works and housing.
In 1984, he was appointed Union Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and, in 1986, Union Minister of the Interior in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet.
Under PV Narasimha Rao, Singh was the Union Minister of Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution from 1995 to 1996.
Manmohan Singh appointed him chairman of the National Registered Breed Commission (NCSC) in 2007. He held that position until 2010.
Singh was instrumental in building and rebuilding many gurdwaras at home and abroad, especially Akal Takht, after Operation Blue Star in 1984. He was involved in rebuilding many gurudwaras in Delhi after the anti riots. -Sikh, November 1984..
He was also chairman of the organizing committee for the Asian Games when the competition was held in India in 1982.

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