RK Singh: Former bureaucrat who challenged ministers now becomes one
In the Narendra Modi-led government's recent cabinet rejig, Raj Kumar Singh, a former bureaucrat, has been appointed the minister of power, and new and renewable energy. Singh was known as a firebrand no-nonsense bureaucrat who never shied away from taking on top politicians and sometimes criticizes his own party. He famously arrested BJP patriarch LK Advani in 1990. Read more about him.
After studying English literature at Delhi's St. Stephen's College, and law, RK Singh attempted the civil service examinations. He was selected for the Indian Police Service in 1974. However, he attempted the examinations again to be selected for the Indian Administrative Service's 1975 batch.
In 1984, as Patna's district magistrate (DM), RK Singh helped stop the anti-Sikh riots, resulting after PM Indira Gandhi's assassination, within 48 hours. Advani's 1990 rath yatra, demanding a Ram temple at Ayodhya's Babri Masjid site, was stopped by Bihar's then CM Lalu Prasad Yadav. Lalu deputed Singh to arrest Advani at Samastipur over fears that the rath yatra would cause a communal backlash.
In March 2000, during Nitish Kumar's 7-day CM stint, Singh was made Bihar's home secretary, superseding several IAS officers. After Nitish's government fell, Advani who didn't hold a grudge about his arrest, asked Singh to join NDA government as joint home secretary from 2000-2005. As principal secretary of roads from 2006-2010, Singh gave Bihar's roads a face-lift contributing to Nitish's 2010 assembly polls win.
During UPA-II, Home Minister P. Chidambaram was impressed with Singh's efficiency, leading to his appointment as union home secretary. During his tenure from 2011-2013, 26/11 attacks perpetrator Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru were hanged. Singh also supervised the alleged "saffron terror" cases, including the Malegaon blasts. He criticized Chidambaram's successor, Sushil Kumar Shinde and charged him with incompetence.
RK Singh had good relations with politicians across party lines. Despite rumors of a JD(U) ticket for 2014 LS elections, Singh joined the BJP. In 2014, he became an MP from Bihar's Arrah constituency. Before the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls, Singh criticized the BJP for giving tickets to alleged criminals. After the polls debacle, he urged for more accountability within the party.
This well-read and resourceful former bureaucrat, much lauded for his skills, has now been appointed as power minister by Modi. With Modi having set the ambitious deadline for complete electrification of villages as 2019, it remains to be seen whether Singh's promising background would ensure he delivers. His stint in the important ministry will be crucial for BJP's win the next LS elections.