MJ Akbar's induction as minister is a message to VK Singh: Work more, talk less

VK Singh is credited with showering lovely encomiums on journalists. Guess what? He now has a former editor for company in the Ministry of External Affairs. And that too an Akbar.

The delicious post-reshuffle ironies that have visited Singh, who got labeled ‘polstitute’ by columnist Ruchir Joshi in return for coining the salutation presstitutes, have largely gone unnoticed because of the drama around Smriti Irani’s demotion.

Singh, like Irani and Jayant Sinha, has got the rough end of the rejig deal. His burden has been lightened by the prime minister by taking away independent charge of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh. PTI

Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh. PTI

And, as a junior minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he now has Akbar for company and competition. It is said of Singh’s new colleague that some years ago, on being awarded the Haldighati award by the royal family of Udaipur, quipped in their presence that Akbar had won Haldighati yet again.

Singh had recently expressed his desire to get roads named after Mughal Emperor Akbar renamed. Let’s hope, Akbar’s erudite company gives him the right perspective of history.

Singh’s demotion — he was earlier commanding his own team, now he has a boss — is a good example of the message prime minister is trying to convey.

With just about three years left for the next election, he wants his ministers to concentrate on work, deliver results, not to speak out of turn and stay away from controversies, especially needless scraps with the media and academicians.

While HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s transfer has been held up as an example for all to see, Singh too is a specimen of the PM’s ‘work-more-talk-less’ strategy.

Unlike Bhakts and Hindutva warriors, who either troll rivals or sing raag darbari from their cosy rooms and assume that jumlebaazi is a substitute for hard work, the PM has realized that the next election will not be a cakewalk for his party.

In 2014, there was a high degree of resentment among people against the UPA government. Voters were angry that Manmohan Singh and his team had deprived India of its deserved progress, recognition and pride. Modi successfully channelized that anger and resentment into an electoral victory.

In 2019, the scanner would be on Modi and his performance. The anger, if any, would be directed against the incumbent and his rivals would be in a position to benefit from it. Modi and Amit Shah have realized this and are getting ready for a phase where they want ministers to talk through their work, not Twitter or TV studios.

As Firstpost has pointed out, ministers who ignore the demotion and delude themselves by thinking they have been freed up for the UP campaign, will do so at their peril. If they do not perform, in the next round of reshuffle, they shall perish.

So, people who claim proximity to the PM but shirk work have been demoted or transferred, loudmouths have been gagged and ignored (remember Subramanian Swamy?) and silent performers have been given high-profile assignments.

Singh had entered politics on the back of a formidable reputation in the Army. He was known to be honest, competent and a capable leader of men. People who served under him say that he was among the best Generals to have led the Indian Army.

But, as a politician, Singh has been a bit of a let-down. Apart from successfully coordinating a rescue operation for Indians stuck in Yemen, he has had very little to showcase in his CV. Compared to him, his junior colleague from the Army, Colonel (retd) Rajyavardhan Singh has been talked of as a better, and non-controversial, performer.

The demotion should be a timely warning for Singh. And the company of former journalist Akbar a deserved reminder of the General’s verbal excesses in the past.

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Updated Date: Jul 06, 2016 16:02:02 IST

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