Home they brought 'Raja of Manda' dead

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New Delhi, Nov 27 (UNI) It was the last homecoming for former prime minister V P Singh, whose body draped in a white coffin, was brought in an ambulance this evening to his official residence, where a large number of teary-eyed sympathisers and admirers, his contemporaries in politics and VIPs poured in to pay their respects to the revered leader.

An eerie silence, pervaded with grief, gripped the entire place as mourners awaited the body of the former premier. His sons had laid down a white sheet where the body was to be kept in state. This was the frontroom of V P Singh's house, where aides conducted the affairs of his office.

The scene reminded one of Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous lines 'Home they brought her warrior dead'. The Raja of Manda, who strode the world of politics like a Colossus once and never gave up his love for the downtrodden till his last, looked so helpless and powerless in death.

The continuing lines of the same verse -- 'She nor swooned, nor uttered cry: All her maidens, watching, said, 'She must weep or she will die' -- also fitted the description of his widow Seeta Devi who observed the body being brought in like a stoic.

V P Singh, whose most controversial move was the implementation of the Mandal Commission which led to numbers of self-immolations by students in 1990, had formed a non-Congress coalition government at the Centre dethroning Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress in the 1989 elections.

Battling blood cancer since 1991 and suffering from renal failure, the 77-year-old Singh breathed his last at the Apollo Hospital here this afternoon.

His two sons --Ajeya Singh and Abhay Singh -- and grandson Akshay stood dolefully by the side of the body.

The lawns, where the former premier would address many meetings, had only empty chairs. Melancholy prevailed all around the house where the formidable figure would be seen walking and carrying out his activities day after day.

As soon as the body was brought, his friends started streaming in. It was a testimony of his popularity.

Among those who came to pay homage to the departed leader included -- former prime minister I K Gujral, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal, Defence Minister A K Antony, BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, Congress leader Anil Shastri, former Uttar Pradesh Governor Romesh Bhandari, Shipping Minister T R Baalu, JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav, CPI(M) leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechuri and Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

The leaders in one voice eulogised the contribution which V P Singh made to Indian politics by giving it a new direction and a thrust to pro-poor policies. He stuck to his beliefs till the end and held the cause of the downtrodden so close to his heart.

Paradoxically, it was the Raja's heart which wept for the poor.

The man on the street understood this well as was obvious from the common folk who also came in large numbers often beat their chests as the grief was too difficult for them to bear.

Lavish praises were also heaped for the leader's artistic and poetic talents.

The famous lines of V P Singh before resigning as Prime Minster were: 'There are no full stops in life I will come back'.

While he never occupied positions of power after relinquishing the premiership, he remained the centre of power voicing the concerns of voiceless. Subsequent governments could not ignore what he said and twisted policies to favour the oppressed and against whom injustice was perpetrated. A recent example is the change in the SEZ policy in favour of the farming community.

It was from these very grounds and that very house that V P Singh launched his campaigns and from tomorrow the house at 1, Teen Murti Marg will wear a different look sans the messsiah who once resided in it.

It was indeed a sad day for India when so many people died in the terror attack in Mumbai and the country lost one of its tallest leaders.

UNI RL/GS PD RN2041

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