‘Kaka’ Randeep Nabha: A Congress man for decades who never shied away from speaking his mind

Randeep Singh Nabha's name as a minister in Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi's new Cabinet was cleared at the last minute after Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with the CM around midnight on Saturday.

Coming from a dyed-in-the-wool traditional Congress family, Randeep Singh Nabha, better known as ‘Kaka Randeep’ in political circles, has been four-time MLA — twice from his hometown of Nabha in Patiala district and twice from Amloh of Fatehgarh Sahib.

Nabha’s name as a minister in Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s new Cabinet was cleared at the last minute after Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with the CM around midnight on Saturday.

Randeep replaced his party colleague and Fatehgarh Sahib MLA, Kuljit Singh Nagra, the two-time MLA, and Rahul Gandhi’s close aide.

However, sources close to Randeep Singh Nabha said that it was neither Rahul Gandhi nor PPCC president Navjot Singh Sidhu, who paved his way into the new Cabinet. It was rather Randeep Nabha’s old proximity with former Madhya Pradesh CM, Kamal Nath, whom he considers his ‘Godfather’, that swung the ministerial berth in his favour.

“After Nagra’s name was announced as a probable for the Cabinet, Randeep protested because Nagra was already appointed as working president PPCC by Sidhu and was only a two-time MLA, whereas he had won four times. He also didn’t see eye to eye with Nagra. Randeep lobbied with the help of Kamal Nath, who in turn told Sonia Gandhi that Randeep must be included, which led to the last-minute changes in the list,” said a close aide of the leader.

Randeep, within the Congress ranks, is known for speaking his mind and standing up for himself, even if it means lodging protests against his own party. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls 2019, he had demanded a ticket from Patiala, which was instead given to Preneet Kaur, wife of Captain Amarinder Singh. Randeep had then refused to campaign for her in Patiala and also said that “CM Captain Amarinder might be a good leader, but he was mostly inaccessible.”

Party leaders identify Randeep as a man who barely is influenced by anyone, often walking his own path and not being part of any camp within the Congress. However, his political success as four-time MLA is attributed to the legacy left behind by his father Gurdarshan Singh, who was four-time Congress MLA (1962, 1967, 1977, and 1988) from the family’s hometown constituency of Nabha. He had also lost from Nabha thrice, but contested seven times from this seat.

Gurdarshan Singh was also a two-time Cabinet minister. He served as the Food and Civil Supplies Minister and then the PWD Minister, under then CM Giani Zail Singh from 1972-77. Later in 1980, he also served as the Revenue Minister in Darbara Singh’s Cabinet.

“During his tenure as the Food Minister, his father is credited with the establishment of Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (PUNSUP), a Punjab government agency that procures food grains from the farmers. His father also had close ties with Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu’s father, Bhagwant Singh, who too was a senior Congress leader in Patiala,” says Sushil Jain, the former political secretary of Late Gurdarshan Singh.

Not only his father, Randeep’s mother, too, was a Congress leader. In fact, it was only after his mother was denied a Congress ticket, that Randeep had jumped into the poll fray as an independent which marked his entry into politics.

His mother Satinder Kaur was the president of the Punjab Mahila Congress and also chairperson of the Punjab Social Welfare Board, under the Beant Singh government’s tenure. She got a ticket in 1992 from Nabha but lost the polls. This happened after Gurdarshan’s death in 1988.

In 1997, she was denied a Congress ticket from Nabha, following which Randeep entered politics and contested as an independent from the seat, but lost.

Then in 2002 and 2007, Randeep won from Nabha on Congress tickets. In 2012, Nabha was notified as a ‘reserved’ constituency and his seat was swapped with his senior party colleague, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot- who has now been dropped from the Cabinet. In 2012 and 2017, Randeep won from Amloh and Dharamsot from Nabha, but both Congress leaders kept being at loggerheads with each other.

Interestingly, Randeep, who did his schooling at the Lawrence School, Sanawar, has a brother Jasdeep Singh Nikku, who is currently with the Aam Aadmi Party and is vying for the AAP ticket from Patiala.

Randeep is married to Behishta Singh, an Afghan national, who also helps him in his political campaigning. He is an avid golfer, so much so that occasionally he has also been accused of missing party meetings to attend golf sessions.

His grandfather Diwan Gurbachan Singh was a minister in Nabha State and his grandfather’s brother, General Shivdev Singh, was also a minister in PEPSU.

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