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The Rediff Interview/Saurabh Narayan Singh

February 14, 2005

He is 29, studied at Doon School and Delhi University and did his MBA from Australia. He speaks English with an accent and looks like one of those bespectacled bookworms often seen in toppers lists in student magazines.

His grandfather was the late Maharaja Bahadur Kamakhya Narayan Singh, the ruler of the erstwhile state of Padma. His grandmother Reva Singh is still known as Rani.

Meet Saurabh Narayan Singh, Congress candidate for the assembly election from Hazaribagh in tribal-dominated Jharkhand. He is fighting Bharatiya Janata Party veteran and state Agriculture Minister Dev Dayal Kuswaha.

No matter what the outcome, Saurabh has made a mark in Hazaribagh. He is a new hero for youngsters. Some female students of the Vinoba Bhave University invite him to address the students during his campaign. "He is so innocent and well-mannered. He is educated. He deserves to win," is what one hears about him.

His drawback is that though he was born in Hazaribagh, he is not familiar with the local dialect. He speaks broken Hindi and uses English words in his speeches, which many do not understand.

Ehtasham Khan spoke to the unlikely neta, who was surrounded by hundreds of supporters and workers at his mansion, the Raja Bangla, on the eve of elections in Hazaribagh.

What were you doing before you joined politics?

I was working with Citicorp in Delhi. Then I got an offer from Citibank to join their Hong Kong operations. But I didn't take it up and decided to contest this election.

Why did chose politics?

Throughout my life I have come across people regretting that politics do not offer them choices. People are not happy with the current lot of politicians. So I have come to pump in some fresh air in the political system. There is a common feeling that educated people should come into politics. Otherwise politics will not improve. We need new people with bright new ideas. Young people should get motivated in politics.

Why would anybody vote for you?

Because people want change. People are unhappy with the present situation, the politics and politicians. They want a new face. They want someone who can bring about change and do something new. I am here to bring that change.

How are you going to bring that change?

The biggest problem today is corruption. It is not just at the top but also at the grassroots. This is something I will work on. I will try to bring in more transparency in the system.

How difficult is it for newcomers and beginners to get into active politics and contest elections?

Definitely it is difficult. But then nothing is easy. One has to fight.

What are the problems?

Problems are everywhere -- you may be having problems in your job, I used to have problems in my job when I was working. Similarly there are problems in politics too. Sometimes people don't take you seriously.

You were working in an air-conditioned environment. Now you are in Jharkhand, which is quite backward -- there are mafias, extremists and criminals. How do you adjust?

Criminalisation of politics is a big challenge. It exists because good people stay out of politics. Once people like you and me start coming into politics, these criminals will take backstage. I am optimistic. The situation will improve and things will change. I am here to make a difference.

You look like a multinational company executive. How do you present yourself to the public? People say you look like an innocent kid. Not the typical kurta-dhoti politician.

(Laughs) No, no, I look like a normal politician. It doesn't matter how you look. What matters is what you are.

Does your royal family background help?

I don't think so. It just helps in the introduction.

Which are the key areas you are going to work in?

First, as I told you, is corruption. I want to give a transparent system. Second, I want to bring in projects and try to implement them to create jobs here. There are lots of delays in government projects because of lack of personal motivation. That also prevents good projects from coming in. That is something I am really going to work on. Most politicians have their own agenda and they push it on to the people. These ideas and agendas may not be acceptable to the people. So I will let the idea grow from the people and see how it could be beneficial to the maximum number of people and get it implemented.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

Complete Coverage: Assembly Elections 2005

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