One-week CM holds real Nayak flag

Ex-chief minister with many firsts recalls wonder days

By Nalin Verma in Patna
  • Published 8.07.15
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Satish Prasad Singh

Patna, July 7: Bihar once had a weeklong chief minister, somewhat like Anil Kapoor who played chief minister for a day in the film Nayak.

Anil Kapoor had mesmerised audiences with his swift actions against myriad troubles afflicting citizens in the movie. But the tenure of Satish Prasad Singh, who was chief minister for just a week (January 27 to February 5, 1968), was no less dramatic than the 2001 movie.

Almost everything was dramatic about the manner in which Satish occupied the coveted chair and vacated it for B.P. Mandal, a senior party colleague, who succeeded him in, probably, the smoothest transfer of power in the state's history.

Satish, now 81, was then barely in his early-30s and a first-time MLA from north Bihar's Parvatta seat. "I have many firsts to my credit. I was the youngest to become a state chief minister, the first backward caste chief minister of Bihar and also the first to have lasted just a week in office. I was also the first occupant of 1 Aney Marg as chief minister," Satish said, sharing the memories of his wonder days with The Telegraph at his 33-A Hardinge Road residence - 400m from incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar's 7 Circular Road and former chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi's 10 Circular Road residences.

But unlike Lalu, Rabri and Nitish or Sushil Kumar Modi and Jitan Ram Manjhi - who are having to slug it out every day - Satish looked relaxed, enjoying gossiping on politics more than indulging in it. "The level of politics has sharply deteriorated. Amassing money and staying on in power are the sole driving forces for leaders today," said Satish at the government bungalow he received in his capacity as a former chief minister. He said: "Had I not received this house, I would not have been staying in Patna. I do not have a house anywhere other than my ancestral home at Korchhakka - now Satish Nagar - in Khagaria district."

Mahamaya Prasad Sinha, the state's first non-Congress chief minister, failed to survive a revolt in 1968. A 155-member Congress team led by K.B. Sahay and supported by a breakaway Sanjukta Socialist Party (SSP) led by B.P. Mandal, created a situation for a new incumbent. Mandal, a unanimous choice, was an MP then. Before the transition, the SSP chose Satish as the ruling group's legislature party leader and he took oath as chief minister at 7.30pm on January 27, 1968.

Chief minister Satish recommended Mandal's name as an MLC on February 2 and subsequently proposed the latter as his successor in the legislature party. Governor N. Kanungoi invited Mandal to form the new government on February 3. Mandal took oath as the chief minister on February 5, 1968, while Satish settled down to playing second fiddle.

"It is another matter that the Assembly Speaker later fiddled with the succession list, showing that I was chief minister for just four days. What you see about my tenure in the succession list in the Assembly or on some websites is wrong. I have given you exact details about my tenure," Satish said.

"Just imagine what would have happened had I acted like Jitan Manjhi. It is not that I lacked support of MLAs. I had the potential to create the kind of drama Manjhi created against Nitish. But our mind did not work that way. Once, the party decided to replace me with Mandal, I happily stuck to it," Satish said, adding: "Manjhi now has all the thugs in his party," Satish said.

Satish fondly recalls the decisions he took as chief minister. "Some Patna University students hurled stones at the governor's car, smashing its window panes, when he was at Gandhi Ghat on January 30. The governor was furious and wanted the guilty arrested. But I ordered the chief secretary not to arrest them and he abided by my order," he said.

He also recalled that B.P. Mandal, who was waiting to replace him, had asked him why he tried to stop the students' arrest. "I told him I am the chief minister and have taken the decision I found judicious. You (Mandal) are not the chief minister yet and so cannot question my decision," Satish said, recalling that Mandal and the governor later appreciated his decision. He also recalled stopping collection of loan from drought-hit farmers and allowing transportation of potato from Bihar to other states to bring some cash to potato growers in the state.

Satish believes Indira Gandhi was the "greatest ever Prime Minister of India". He said: "I treat Lohia like my idol but Indira ji was the greatest Prime Minister India ever had." He had led an agitation against Indira's "torture" by Janata Party in 1977. Indira rewarded him with a Lok Sabha ticket from Khagaria in 1980, which he won as a Congress candidate.

"Narendra Modi is a pygmy compared to Indira ji. Look at how she decided to support Bangladesh's war of independence and helped carve a new country out of Pakistan despite US opposition. This Modi simply brags. He does not do anything. His predecessors were not good either".

Satish does not hold a good opinion about the current crops of Bihar leaders. "Lalu rightly stands convicted in a corruption case. Sushil Kumar Modi, who is trying to become chief minister, is not good either- he is surrounded by corrupt elements," Satish said. He was relatively less acerbic on Nitish. "Nitish might be a good person. But he too is surrounded by corrupt elements." he said, adding: " Zamana badal gaya hai (Times have changed)".

On Lalu's statement where he asked if his offspringwould graze buffalos (if they didn't contest polls), Satish said: "My first son, Sunil Kumar, is an executive in a multi-national company while the second one, Sushil, is a Supreme Court lawyer."