Monday, December 17, 2007

Vikramganj by Election on 29th December

Does anyone need to know as to why Kanti Singh left Vikramganj constituency without fulfilling her obligations towards the voters who elected her. She is now a MP from Arrah constituency.

Meena Devi, wife of former Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] MP Ajit Kumar Singh will be the party's candidate for the December 29 by-election to Bikramganj Lok Sabha seat, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The by-election has been necessitated by the mysterious death of Singh, also chairman of NAFED, in an accident.

Bye elections for Ballia Lo Sabha seat will also take place on the same day.

Predicting the victory of Meena Devi by a comfortable margin, Kumar said that she was elected party's candidate on the recommendation of the local unit and JD(U) MLA from the constituency. People will vote for Meena Devi as her husband was a popular figure in the area and many steps initiated by the government in the past two years for the development of the state, Kumar said at the "janata durbar".

The RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has put up Ashok Kumar Kushwaha, belonging to the Kushwaha community, which has been fuming at Kumar after the expulsion of its leader Upendra Kushwaha from the JD(U).

It appears to be a contest between JD(U) and RJD. Candidates of the CPI-ML and the BSP are among the 12 in the fray.

Given the fact that Vikramganj is the former constituency of Kanti Singh. It would be revealing to note what Manushi wrote about her in Sept. 1996

Once upon a time Kanti Singh was the Minister of State in the Human Resources Development Ministry, called a meeting a few days after she got the job. Officials prepared themselves well, expecting that they would have to brief the first-time Minister from scratch. They needn't have bothered. The Minister sat through the meeting and asked a few questions. But every time she would say something, her eyes would swivel to Mr Kanti Singh, who sat beside her for the entire 75 minutes.

His manner was unintrusive, but the message was clear: in this ministry, it was the Ministers husband who wore the pants. But not just her husband. The few weeks that she was Minister apparently qualified her for a promotion.

From Human Resources Development, she was shifted to the far more powerful Coal Ministry. Yeh sab Lalooji ke chalte hua hai, she told reporters. That a housewife like Kanti Singh with hardly any experience of politics could rise to such a powerful office was testimony to the United Fronts commitment to the empowerment of women, say partymen. But in many ways, Kanti Singhs rise and rise is a metaphor for all that was wrong with the United Front(UF).

Those who were involved in the anti-Emergency movement in Bihar in the mid 70s say they never saw Kanti Singh on the scene, but we have to take Laloo Yadavs word for it that Singh came into politics at that time. Keshaw Prasad Singh, Kanti's husband, was an over seer with the Bihar Public Works Department in the 70s.

No one remembers Kanti as displaying any extraordinary talent for mobilisation, leadership or politics. But Laloo Yadav must have detected some spark. For in 1992, he thought she was politically mature enough to be appointed party General Secretary. Amid unspoken hostility, Kanti Singh was given charge and was later made to contest the assembly election.

In 1996, Laloo felt she could become a member of Parliament (MP). She was given the Vikramganj seat in west Bihar to contest from. Laloo not only went to Vikramganj himself to campaign for his protege, but also ordered four or five ministers in the state government to work for her. She had a formidable opponent Vashist Narayan Singh, a senior Samata Party candidate who had been close to Laloo at one time.

Though the election is under dispute, she won by a margin of 800-odd votes. Her name was recommended for a ministership and when Laloo felt she hadn't got her due, she was given a better ministry.

No one would have objected if Kanti Singh had been competent and talented and Laloo had tried to further her career. But when he was asked why H.D. Deve Gowda had appointed Kanti, he said: Because we needed a woman in the government. A mystified Maneka Gandhi asked the same question. Not only was she expelled from the party, but the party's womens wing pilloried her for it.

Laloo Yadav can be excused for defending Kanti. He needs reliable right-hand men and women in Delhi and the Coal Ministry has a direct bearing on politics (and finance) in Bihar. The UF was a hostage to then Bihar Chief Minister. So competence had to be defined by the yardstick Yadav set.

The net result was, India had a woman Minister of State for coal, but the decisions were all taken in consultation with : Laloo Yadav and Mr Kanti Singh. Those who can see things going wrong keep quiet. After all, wasn't Kanti Singh the embodiment of woman power? asked Manushi.

Kanti Singh was born in Pachhahar, village of Rohtas district. From 23 May 2004 to 28 Jan. 2006, she was Union Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Currently, she is the Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in the Dr Manmohan Singh government under Rashtriya Janata Dal quota.

In February 2005 Bihar Assembly elections, Narendra Kumar Pandey alias Sunil Pandey of JDU won from Piro in Bhojpur district defeating Keshaw Prasad Singh, husband of Kanti Singh by over 35,000 votes.

Kanti Singh represented Vikramganj in 1996 and 1999 by defeating Vashishta Narayan Singh of JD(U).

P.S: Manushi should have also informed its readers as to whether Maneka Gandhi is the embodiment of woman power? What is her status in Bhartiya Janata Party?

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