Former Union minister and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh died at the age of 82 on Thursday, May 6. His son Jayant Chaudhary, a former MP, confirmed the news on Twitter. Ajit Singh had been suffering from the COVID-19 since April 20 and was being treated in a Gurgaon hospital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among a slew of politicians cutting across the party lines who paid tribute to Singh, known to be a prominent voice of farmers. In his condolence message, Modi said that he always worked for farmers and discharged his duties in the central government efficiently.
Son of the sixth Prime Minister of India, Chaudhary Charan Singh, and Gayatri Devi, Ajit Singh was born at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh on February 12, 1939. A computer engineer from IIT Kharagpur, he was among the first IITians to enter politics.
Also an alumnus of Illinois Institute of Technology, he was a seven-time MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat and Union minister in governments under V.P. Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Manmohan Singh.
Ajit Singh entered politics after working in the computer industry for 15 years in the United States, when his father fell ill back home.
He was sent to the Rajya Sabha in 1986. After the death of Chaudhary Charan Singh the next year, he was asked to take over the reins of the party. But amid internal tussles, the party split and Ajit Singh formed his own party, Lok Dal (A), in 1987.
In 1988 October, his party, along with other Janata Party factions, formed the Janata Dal under the leadership of VP Singh to take on the Congress. In 1989, he became the general secretary of the Janata Dal.
He first entered the Lok Sabha in 1989 from Baghpat, his father's constituency. He continued his winning spree till 2009, except in the 1998 by-polls. He did lose the Baghpat seat in the general elections of 2014. In the last general elections in 2019, he fought from UP’s Muzaffarpur but lost to the BJP candidate.
Ajit Singh founded the RLD in 1996 and later formed an alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He became a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 2001-2003. By 2009, he had shifted his allegiance to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). He went on to become a minister in the second UPA government. His stint lasted till 2014.
In spite of changing friends, one thing remained constant throughout his political journey, his hold on the rural hinterland of the Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh.
(Edited by: By Shoma)
First Published: IST