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Buta's tenure full of controversies

Buta Singh may probably be the first politician to resign as Governor.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2006 19:01 IST

A long-standing player in politics with a career dogged by controversies, Buta Singh may probably be the first politician to resign as Governor.

He resigned after a strong indictment by the Supreme Court in a case dissolution of the assembly.

Singh, who quit as Bihar Governor on Thursday, was always in news during his 15-month tenure as Bihar Governor, most of the time for wrong reasons.

Controversies and court cases are nothing new to Buta Singh who has however managed to stage a comeback almost every time to earn for himself the tag of a great survivor.

Though essentially a Congressman who had held the powerful home portfolio in Rajiv Gandhi Government in late 1980s, Buta Singh had joined BJP-led NDA government at the Centre as Communication Minister after he had won Lok Sabha poll as an independent in Rajasthan in March-April 1998.

It was a different matter that his stay in NDA ministry was short-lived, as he had to quit following framing of charges by a court in a Jain hawala case.

Buta Singh's stay at Raj Bhawan in Patna too was marred by rows, be it appointments made before the assembly polls to fill vacancies in state public service commission, the Backward Classes Commission, the State Minority Commission, the 15-point Programme Implementation Committee and the State Nagrik Parishad.

Besides, his two sons were also embroiled in controversies during Singh's gubernatorial stint in Bihar.

Singh's tenure, dubbed by the Opposition as Lalu's proxy rule, saw resentment also in Bihar bureaucracy against transfers of their colleagues by the Governor. A section of the bureaucracy believed the transfers seemed to have been designed to protect the interests of Railway Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad's party colleagues ahead of the polls.

Singh was in the news again when he wrote to the Railway Minister seeking his intervention in securing a particular posting for a Railway employee having a vigilance case against him.

An eight-time Lok Sabha member, Singh took over his gubernatorial assignment in November 2004 as M Rama Jois, an appointee of the NDA government at the Centre, resigned after an eventful 16-month term often marked by frequent stand-off between him and the then Rabri Devi Ministry.

Buta Singh had occupied the gubernatorial chair during one of the most crucial years in the history of politically volatile Bihar, which saw two assembly elections within a span of eight months in 2005.

As the February 2005 had thrown up a badly fractured mandate, he recommended bringing the state under President's Rule, which was imposed on March 7.

As NDA, despite being well short of a majority in the 243-member assembly, continued efforts to cobble a majority with the help of some rebel MLAs of Lok Janshakti Party led by Ram Vilas Paswan and some independents, Buta Singh sent reports to the Centre on April 27 and May 21 expressing concern over "horse trading" and recommended dissolution of the 13th assembly which has not been convened even once.

Buta Singh had come under NDA attack after the Union Cabinet met on the midnight of March 22 and recommended dissolution of the house. Presidential assent for the dissolution was received in Delhi in the wee hours of May 23.

As NDA enforced bandhs and took to street demanding recall of the Governor, four MLAs of the dissolved assembly owing allegiance to the alliance moved the Supreme Court against the dissolution.
The Supreme Court, in a brief order on October 7 2005, declared as unconstitutional the dissolution of the assembly on the basis of governor's recommendation.

However, Buta Singh, the great survivor that he is, managed to extend his stay at the Raj Bhawan in Patna.

The 71-year-old Dalit leader was associated with Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab in early 1960s before becoming one of its staunchest critics.

He was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time in 1962 and there was no looking back for the leader from Jallowal village in Jalandhar district of Punjab ever since.

Singh had his first stint in the government as a deputy minister for railways in the Indira Gandhi dispensation in 1974.

His proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family saw Singh becoming an AICC general secretary in 1978. He continued in the post till 1980.

Buta Singh had held the shipping and transport, supply and rehabilitation and sports portfolios as a minister of state between 1980 and 1983. He became a cabinet minister for parliamentary affairs in 1983-84 in Indira Gandhi government.

After Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984, Singh was inducted into the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet as agriculture and rural development minister and finally landed the crucial home portfolio in 1986.

The wily politician earned the wrath of the Sikh clergy when he, as Union Home Minister, defended the 'Operation Blue Star' against the militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Buta Singh was declared a 'tankhaiya' (apostate) by the Sikh clergy and he had to later apologise and atone for his 'sins' by polishing shoes and washing utensils at various gurudwaras, including the takht harmandir saheb at Patna, the birthplace of the 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh.

First Published: Jan 26, 2006 19:01 IST