A deep dive into K C Tyagi’s storied career is warranted as Nitish Kumar is busy mobilising forces in Bihar to get ready for 2024 polls.
In politics for close to five decades, septuagenarian socialist leader K C Tyagi is back to the position that he has held since the early 1980s: A publicity manager.
Tyagi, a former Rajya Sabha MP, was the principal general secretary-cum-principal spokesperson of the Janata Dal (United) before he was omitted from the list of office-bearers announced by the party on March 23. The JD(U) had then struggled to explain the move, keeping Tyagi out of the party’s top team, and eventually said that he was relieved of organisational responsibilities upon his “repeated requests”. Both the party as well as Tyagi clarified that he had chosen to “opt out” of the rejig, though Tyagi had told reporters at the time that he was “not out of politics”.
The veteran leader was the face of the JD(U) in the national capital after the Lok Shakti Party and the Samata Party, and the faction of the Janata Dal led by the late Sharad Yadav merged on October 30, 2003. In the 1980s, he had served as the publicity incharge for Lok Dal, a party started by former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh.
Late last month, Tyagi was re-inducted as the party’s chief spokesperson and a special advisor after being dropped from the JD(U)’s office-bearer’s list during a rejig in March. Tyagi is important for JD(U) and particularly Nitish Kumar at a time when the Bihar CM is trying to bring together the Opposition parties to prevent the BJP from coming to power in 2024.
“In such a situation, Tyagi can play a key role in creating an atmosphere in the politics of Delhi for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and in creating coordination between the JD(U) and the leaders of the Opposition. That is why he has been brought back,” said a senior party leader.
Why did Tyagi “opt out”
“Tyagiji has always done Delhi-based politics. His karambhoomi (workplace) has always been in Ghaziabad and Delhi. He has been a known face in national politics and never ever tried himself in state politics,” said a JD(U) leader, close to him for 30 years.
K C Tyagi comes from western Uttar Pradesh and after starting his political innings with Chaudhary Charan Singh, he joined Janata Dal and then Nitish Kumar. KC Tyagi won the Hapur-Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat on a Janata Dal ticket in 1989 and became a Member of Parliament. After this, he also remained in the Rajya Sabha from 2013 to 2016.
He has been a close associate of the late Sharad Yadav, who died in January 2023. The only time he differed with the former Union minister and founder-member of JD(U) was in 2017 when he questioned then JD(U) president Nitish Kumar’s decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“Sharadji is one of the founding members of the party, but it pains us that the path chosen by him leads to our rival, the Rashtriya Janata Dal,” Tyagi told reporters in 2017 reacting to the removal of Yadav by the party as its leader in the Rajya Sabha. He added that it was “shocking” that Yadav was “cosying up” to RJD chief Lalu Yadav, against whom he had fought “throughout his career.”
At the same time, Yadav asserted that Nitish broke the “trust of 11 crore people” when he aligned with the BJP in 2017 to form the government in Bihar. Tyagi minced no words when he said that Sharad Yadav’s political language was “objectionable” and “uncomfortable for the party president Nitish Kumar and the government (of Bihar).” Tyagi asked Yadav to put forward his objections to the party executive, instead of making public statements, which prompted the latter to break away from the JD(U) and form the Loktantrik Janata Dal. The LJD later merged with the RJD in 2022.
There are various theories for Tyagi’s keenness to be relieved of his post of principal general secretary and principal spokesperson of JD (U).
The senior JD(U) leader told Hindustan Times in March that he felt “discomfort” to work under leaders like R C P Singh and his successor Rajiv Ranjan Singh. When RCP took over the responsibility of the party in early 2020, Tyagi reportedly requested Nitish Kumar to relieve him of his responsibilities.
“I told Nitishji that I would stay on only if he remains the national president. I had reasserted my stand at the national executive meet of the party held in Patna last year and Nitishji said he would have to think about something else for me,” he said.
An old-school socialist, Tyagi has been finding himself increasingly sidelined by the party in the last few years — first by R C P Singh, then political strategist Prashant Kishor who was all set to join Nitish in 2018, and Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, who appointed as the national spokesperson in 2021 — party leaders said.
“Tyagiji was not cut out to adjust to the new power structure in the party. He never made it to Nitish’s inner team and whenever there were talks about seat adjustments, Tyagi found himself left out as Lalan and RCP took charge,” a senior JD(U) leader said.
Another party said that when Tyagi’s son Amrish joined the BJP in 2021, the father’s position in the party became tenuous as leaders started counting him as a “saffron man”.
“During the last three years, he came to Patna only when there was a party function,” the leader said.
In an ironic twist, RCP Singh joined the BJP in May 2023.
“It’s been 48 years (in politics for me). I was first made the secretary of the erstwhile Lok Dal founded by Chaudhary Charan Singh. I was also made an office bearer by (old socialist leaders like) Raj Narayan, Devi Lal, former prime minister Chandrashekhar, and former UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Nitish Kumar was the final one to appoint me,” Tyagi said.
JD(U) leader Afaque Ahmed Khan, who has been associated with Tyagi for the past 35 years said that Tyagi was first appointed as All India Publicity Secretary by Chowdhary Charan Singh and he remained in the post from 1984 till 1987. “Tyagiji has a huge presence in media,” he said.
“He has a national outlook and is a known figure in national leaders’ circle. During the period when the JD(U) was part of the NDA, Nitish ji wanted him to become the governor but things did not materialise,” another JD(U) leader said.
“I cannot run away from his responsibility at a time when Nitish Kumar is engaged in the mission of 2024 and is working for opposition unity. I cannot forget that Nitish Kumar sent me to Rajya Sabha and gave me an opportunity to work on important posts in JD-U. In this way, we are ready to work shoulder to shoulder with Nitish Kumar for 2024,” said Tyagi after getting the new responsibility.
Tyagi has already shown his understanding of Opposition unity by floating the concept of “one on one”. “We have so far identified 475 Lok Sabha seats where there can be a fight with the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and where a united Opposition can put up a joint candidate. We want to replicate the model of the 1974 Bihar movement JP movement,” he said.