New Delhi, July 14: Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Rajendra Singh died today in Pune after three years of illness. He was 81.
The mild-mannered and soft-spoken former sarsanghchalak was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. He died around 12.30 pm at Kaushik Ashram in Pune, RSS prant pracharak Suhas Hiremath said.
The news was conveyed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while he was at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The committee, which was discussing the likely deployment of Indian troops in Iraq, adopted a condolence resolution. A minute’s silence was observed.
Singh’s funeral tomorrow in Pune will be attended by the Prime Minister, his deputy L.K. Advani, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and a host of other senior Sangh parivar leaders.
Sources said Vajpayee, who is scheduled to address two public meetings in Bhubaneswar tomorrow, will go to Pune first.
Singh’s death, however, would not affect the BJP’s national executive scheduled for July 19 and 20 in Raipur, sources said.
But a meeting of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh executive in Lucknow tomorrow which Advani was to have attended has been cancelled.
A professor of physics in Allahabad University before becoming a pracharak in the early 1960s, Singh was said to be close to Vajpayee.
It was during Singh’s 1994-2000 tenure as the fourth sarsanghchalak that the Hindutva movement rose to a pitch. He was an RSS general secretary in the 1980s when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was at its height.
The first non-Brahmin and non-Marathi to head the RSS, Singh took over as sarsanghchalak from Balasaheb Deoras. He passed on the mantle to K.S. Sudarshan owing to ill health, but Singh continued as an adviser.
“He wanted to attend the just-concluded RSS meeting at Kanyakumari. That was his last wish, which remained unfulfilled,” Sudarshan said in Nagpur. “I was scheduled to meet him in Pune on July 22 but unfortunately I have to proceed today to bid him farewell.”
Although his tenure as sarsanghchalak was stormy, Singh shared an excellent rapport with political leaders, cutting across ideology, as also academicians and intellectuals. His stint at the top, though the shortest for any RSS chief, saw the emergence of the organisation’s political wing, the BJP, as the largest party in Parliament.
Singh was born on January 29, 1922, in the Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh.