Two-time JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, better known by his initials RCP Singh, prefers keeping a low profile. The only instance observers in Patna recall of his being vocal is when poll strategist Prashant Kishor briefly challenged his authority as de facto number two to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Two days before the first phase of voting in Bihar though, on October 26, Singh, 62, found himself in the limelight after a violent clash during immersion of a Durga idol left one dead and several injured in Munger, allegedly in police firing. Singh faced violent protests when he visited Begusarai, with the Opposition hinting at the fact that Singh’s daughter Lipi Singh was SP of Munger. The Election Commission has since then removed Lipi Singh.
An UP cadre IAS officer, Singh first came in contact with Nitish when he was posted as private secretary to then Union minister Beni Prasad Verma in 1996. Nitish and Singh are said to have bonded over the fact that both come from Nalanda in Bihar and are Kurmi (as was Verma). Nitish is also said to have been impressed with Singh’s acumen as a bureaucrat.
When Nitish became Union railway minister, Singh became his special secretary, later following him through his various portfolios.
After Kumar became CM in November 2005, Singh moved to Bihar. He came to play a key role in postings, and as Nitish’s principal secretary, was seen as his voice. Soon, Singh’s influence extended to the JD(U) as well.
In 2010, Singh took voluntary retirement and was nominated by the JD(U) to the Rajya Sabha. He was renominated in 2016.
Sources say Nitish’s refusal of the offer of a berth in the Modi Cabinet at the Centre was on account of Singh. The BJP was ready to offer one berth, but the JD(U) leader wanted two — for Singh as well as his other long-time lieutenant, Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh.
Nitish has been lucky that Singh and Lalan Singh work well in tandem, knowing their respective places — under him. While Singh is content staying in the shadows, Lalan Singh is an MP.
The one time Singh is seen to have felt his position challenged was when Kishor shot up in the JD(U) like a meteor, and burnt out as quickly. As organisational general secretary of the party, Singh is known to have not taken kindly to the political strategist and JD(U) vice-president meeting party leaders. The emergence of a second power centre, apparently with the blessing of Nitish, was noted by all. Eventually, Singh prevailed and Kishor exited.
Playing virtually his last hand in this election, a cautious Nitish has evened out the stakes in recent days — Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary and JD(U) state working president Ashok Kumar Choudhary also have key roles in this election.
The Munger MP, incidentally, is Lalan Singh.