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Striped pants & a lock of hair

india Updated: Nov 30, 2009 00:30 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times
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If you’ve never met Union Minister RPN Singh or know nothing about him, then his three-initialed name will seem a mismatch to his Doon school background. One would imagine him to be a doddering, dhoti-clad, paan-chewing Congressman: a bhaiyya from Uttar Pradesh to be precise.

Quite the opposite. He is young, educated and the striped trousers variety with a lock of hair on his forehead. That probably comes from his unfulfilled aspiration of being a film star: something that he inherited from his father, like he did politics.

Singh’s father, CPN Singh was close to Sanjay Gandhi, former PM Indira Gandhi’s younger son. Unlike many Sanjay cronies, Singh was of royal lineage. He was Raja of Padrauna in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He handled the defence portfolio in the 80s but feudal rifts led to his being gunned down during an election campaign.

By Singh’s own admission, his father wanted to be a Hollywood actor, and Singh junior wanted to try his hand in Bollywood. Realisation perhaps dawned early, and Singh found acting not as easy as it seemed.

Yet his fascination with the silver screen has continued. It’s difficult to say whether this led to his marriage to a well-known television newscaster: “A late marriage,” Singh said given that he was touching 40 when he tied the knot. However, what he has yet to come to grips with is being a father.

Visibly ecstatic even after six years of his first born, Yaamini, Singh says he is a “hands-on, paranoid father”. Hands-on because he dresses her up, drives her to school, takes care of her needs and pampers her. Paranoid because he is terrified that she’ll trip or hurt herself: “Works because my wife is a hands-off mother,” Singh said.

His political debut was after his father’s death. His mother, Mohini Devi, was unable to wrest the seat. It took Singh three elections to win it for the Congress in Parliament. What perhaps came between the people and the king was the palace. In other words, the inaccessibility and inability of the royalty to rub shoulders with the commoners. Among the Congress rank and file, Singh’s alleged proximity to 10 Janpath has led to his being seen as their “blue eyed boy”. During the recent elections Congressmen in UP were unhappy at the attention being given to Padrauna by the party High Command.

In the constituency, his track record is debatable: “The people who voted him in are today repenting. He has never taken up their cause whether it is about sugarcane prices or anti-farmers policies of the Centre. Singh has never pushed any pro-people policies. His mother’s defeat in the recent by poll is evidence of the electorate’s disenchantment with the family,” said BJP’s Vijay Dubey, Singh’s poll rival.

For someone whose father thought kurta pyjamas were a “night suit” Singh has come a long way in donning a pair, but it’s still not his choice of daily attire.