Harivansh Narayan Singh, NDA’s nominee for the post of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, hails from Sitab Diara village in Saran district, also the native village of legendary Jayaprakash Narayan, whose movement, he says, influenced his journalism.
A village boy whose farming family lost agricultural land to erosion due to the change in Ganga’s path, Harivansh completed his postgraduation in Economics and started a career with Hindi weekly Dharmyug in the 1980s. He later became an officer with Bank of India. While his family wanted him to continue with the job, Harivansh soon switched back to journalism, joining Ravivar magazine. “But the journalism of metropolitan cities did not look challenging and I preferred to do journalism in a small town,” said Harivansh, who joined Prabhat Khabar in Ranchi in 1989 and rose to become its editor-in-chief. He quit the position when he became a Rajya Sabha member in 2014.
Harivansh said he has always believed in “campaign” journalism against the “malaise of the system”. Often accused of giving good press to Nitish during his stint as chief editor, Harivansh said he praised “good works” of Nitish in the sphere of development and added, “journalism is often about maintaining a balance between targeting the system and engaging in its constructive criticism”.
Before being elected to the Upper House, his only stint in politics was during the tenure of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, who chose Harivansh as political adviser. Harivansh had then quit as chief editor of Prabhat Khabar to take the position and later returned to the newspaper after Congress withdrew support from the government.
After becoming MP, when he had to adopt a village, his first criteria was to choose one that was not related to even his distant relatives and does not have any political significance. He eventually decided on Bahuaara village in Rohtas. Senior journalist Nirala says Harivansh had a unique idea to use his MPLAD fund and gave a major part of it to open a river study-cum-research centre at Aryabhatta University and for the development of a centre for endangered language at IIT-Patna.
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Known to keep a low profile, Harivansh has the ear of Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar, but would try not to let anybody sense it. His selection, meanwhile, marks a thaw in the relationship of the BJP and the JD(U). He is the first JD(U) man to be picked up by the BJP dispensation for a job at the Centre in the backdrop of a long-held grouse of Nitish that even while he had given a full representation to the BJP in his government, the other side had not reciprocated it at the Centre. It remains to be seen if it would be followed up by the induction of at least one party representative in the Narendra Modi government or not.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by opting for a member of an allied party for the deputy chairman’s post, has sent a signal of his sense of accommodation to other allies as well. It is another matter that Naresh Gujral of Shiromani Akali Dal, who was hopeful of becoming the NDA nominee, has been disappointed.
Harivansh’s selection tends to repair the BJP-JD(U) ties a bit in the aftermath of speculation that Nitish may return to the Grand Alliance ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
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