With the death of Sardar Buta Singh the country today lost the voice of weaker and underprivileged section, which firmly believed that Dr BR Ambedkar’s dream of Dalit empowerment can be fulfilled only through political power.
Born in 1934 in a poor family Mazhbi Sikh family at village Mustafapur in Jalandhar district of Punjab. A devout Sikh, who thoroughly believed in Marxism and ideology of Dr BR Ambedkar, Sardar Buta Singh knew that education was the real key to Dalit empowerment. He acquired maximum education which helped him not only in gaining knowledge but sharpening his oratorical skills also.
His oratorical skills, loyalty and firm commitment for well being of poorest of poor drove him close to late Prime Ministers Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mrs Indira Gandhi and then Mr Rajiv Gandhi. Though he formally joined Congress during tenure of Mrs Gandhi but it was Pandit Nehru who patted him in Central Hall of Parliament for his outstanding speech as Akali MP on Punjabi Suba.
Elected to Lok Sabha eight times in 1962,1967, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1991, 1998 and 1999 Sardar ji as he was popularly known amongst his followers was Minister of more than 17 departments including Home, Agriculture, Sports , Urban Development, Food and Civil Supplies, Railways, Communication and others.
Despite of being the most powerful and sought after Congress leader in Congress during times of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty he never entered Parliament through Rajya Sabha as he was votary of the fact that a politician must be accountable to public for which verdict from people was must.
He represented Moga twice in 1962 and 1967 on Akali ticket and then Ropar in 1971 and 1980 on Congress ticket. In 1984 when Punjab was in boil, Mr Rajiv Gandhi chose him for representing Jalore Parliamentary constituency which then became his ‘Karam bhoomi’ as he was elected from it in 1984, 1992, 1998 and 1999.
Interestingly, the colossus Congressman was denied ticket by party under the leadership of Sita Ram Kesri but he proved to be a mass leader by registering a massive win of 1.65 lakh votes in Lok Sabha polls of 1998 as an Independent candidate.
Very few people know the fact that when Congress was divided after its debacle in 1977 following Janta wave, Sardar Buta Singh was the only General Secretary of All India Congress Committee led by Mrs Indira Gandhi.
Even he played a key role in securing the current ‘Palm or Hand’ symbol of Congress (I) from Election Commission of India for the party after the symbol of Cow and Calf was frozen by ECI. Sardar Buta Singh proudly used to boast that he was one man army of Mrs Gandhi as he was office incharge cum personal assistant cum driver cum Gun Man of the former Prime Minister from 1977-79.
Being the Chairman of Asian Games Organising Committee Sardar Buta Singh brought laurels for the country by successfully organising 1982 Asian Games at New Delhi. The flawless arrangements made by him rose his stature at the national level.
Similarly after the killing of Mrs Gandhi in 1984 Sardar Buta Singh as Union Home Minister was instrumental in carving out elite force in form of National Security Guards (NSG) and Special Protection Group (SPG) for security of VVIPs including the Prime Minister.
Being the Home Minister of country during black days in Punjab Sardar Buta Singh was on the hit list of terrorists. But a true patriot Sardar Buta Singh rendered his duty without any fear due to which many members of his family were killed also. He also played a key role in trouble shooting major problems like that in Assam, Gorkhaland and others during his stint.
Throughout his life Sardar Buta Singh not only worked for Dalit empowerment through ensuring government jobs for his brethren but he also assured that Dalit movement gets a fillip with his support may be in clandestine manner.
During his hey days he not only ensured monetary support to leaders like Mr Ram VIlas Paswan and Mr Kanshi Ram but also ensured help from government machinery whenever it was required.
His dedication and humbleness assured that he made friends from across the party line due to which stalwarts like Mr LK Advani, Mr Harkrishan Singh Surjeet, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala and others admired him.
Though Sardar Buta Singh has been often labelled as a Dalit leader but in reality he was the leader of humanity. He was equally revered by all the religions and communities for his truly secular and progressive outlook. His death is a huge loss particularly for weaker and underprivileged sections who have not only lost their voice but one of the major pillar of their strength has fallen today.