Chaudhary Ajit Singh was not just an ordinary politician but an institution that trained youths from various states in farmer politics, now doing politics of farmers at different rungs. His death, thus, is not only a personal loss but also leaves an unfillable void in the country.
Memories of my first interaction with him are still fresh. We, as students from Meerut University, went to meet him in 1989 when he was industry minister, in a plea to increase the upper age limit of civil services exams from 26 to 28 years so that youths from rural backgrounds could have a level playing field in IAS, IPS and other central services exams. He not only readily agreed to our request but also convinced then prime minister V.P. Singh to implement it the same year for those sitting for civil services exams.
We were highly impressed with his working style, which was different from other contemporary leaders. That first meeting resulted in a lifelong relationship, frequent meetings and long discussions on agriculture, social and political issues. He defied his biological age, remained active and cheerful till his hospitalisation due to Covid.
His political journey was full of twists and turns, while his party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) faced many ups and downs, just like any other small political party. Though RLD made alliances with bigger parties for power but Singh never sacrificed his secular ideology or the farmers’ interest.
Probably, 2013 was an acid test for his personality, as communal politics was in full force and he was forced to make a difficult choice of taking the side of either Jats or Muslims. He suffered a huge political loss in 2017, losing all assembly seats except Baghpat, but maintained his secular ideology. After the farmers’ agitation began in Delhi, the dynamics of farmer politics changed. His intervention during police action on Rakesh Tikait and other agitating farmers, made him a hero again. In Muzaffarnagar meetings, along with BKU president Chaudhary Naresh Tikait, many other farmers publicly vindicated his stand on secularism in western UP politics.
He had even contested the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha polls, just to douse the communal passions, which had become characteristics of western UP. Singh’s political fortune seemed to be looking up again, as was evident from the SP-RLD alliance for the 2022 elections and a public declaration of a Rajya Sabha seat for Chaudhary Ajit Singh.
Just when everybody was eager to see his political star rise again, death snatched him from his family of millions of farmers. He has left us with a rich legacy of gentleman-politics centred around farmers and rural India. Hope his party under the leadership of Jayant Chaudhary will carry forward that legacy and vision.
(The author is a farmer leader and former member of UP Planning Commission. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Outlook Magazine.)