Mohan Singh, the new Samajwadi party general secretary, is a chip off the socialist block, says Seema Mustafa
SIXTY-FIVE-YEAR OLD Mohan Singh is one of those leaders who never moved out of the Socialist framework. His appointment as general secretary and spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party to replace Amar Singh is seen by him as a vindication of the politics that led him through a varied path, from jail to Lok Sabha MP.
Singh has lost little time in bringing back shades of his Allahabad University days when as the students’ union president in 1968-69 he led many an agitation and joined Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement along with another firebrand student and friend, Janeshwar Mishra. Shooting from the hip, he has taken on former Mulayam Singh crony Amar Singh. He told TEHELKA: “In the socialist movement, he (Amar Singh) was a conspiracy hatched by big business to damage the movement. He was the inner contradiction that could not exist without being exposed, and he has been exposed.” He adds quickly: “The movement has been damaged only slightly and will recover soon.” The new general secretary adds that the socialists refused to accept Amar Singh and hastened his exit from the party.
Twenty months in jail during the Emergency did not kill Singh’s quiet commitment to socialism as he was quite familiar with life within. As a student leader he had been imprisoned for leading students to occupy Jawaharlal Nehru’s Anand Bhawan in Allahabad. He was jailed in 1973, before the Emergency, for participating in a satyagraha with Madhu Limaye. Singh was a forceful leader in the Janata Dal, never hesitating to speak his mind, but the Amar Singh years in the Samajwadi Party made him silent and forced him to confine himself to his home state Uttar Pradesh. But he remains well respected in the party, being seen as “educated and honest”.
The resignation, reflected in silence, has turned into euphoria with Samajwadi chieftain Mulayam Singh’s decision to bring in Mohan Singh as a direct replacement for Amar Singh. The veteran socialist is back in the saddle and made it clear that he would now be working not just for the revival of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, but also a revival of the socialist movement, by getting all former colleagues together. Asked if he was seeking unity of Janata Dal (S), Janata Dal (U) and other parties, he says: “All samajwadis will come together. All those who had been sitting at home discouraged and disappointed will be involved and the samajwadis will together launch a new struggle against price rise.”
Articulate as always, Singh points out that this was not the first time that the socialist movement had been divided. The “big obstacle” in the way of unity now, he says, is that the BJP has allied with many socialist parties and that these were in power in states. The reference was clearly to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who the Left and socialists are keen to wean away from the BJP. Singh is positive that “unity” will happen.
Janeshwar Mishra’s condolence meeting did give a slight indication of what Singh, who conducted the proceedings, is aiming for: Left and socialist unity, now that the biggest hurdle, Amar Singh, has been removed.