With Elevation To Cabinet Rank, Performance Rewarded For R.K. Singh

Highlights :

  • The power and MNRE sectors will welcome the elevation of Minister R.K. Singh to cabinet rank.
  • The minister has been rewarded for performance, and will hope to build a legacy for the long term now.

For R.K Singh, the former IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer who was first inducted as the Minister of State For Power in PM Modi’s cabinet back in September 2017, the rise to cabinet rank in under 48 months has been marked with some huge milestones. The latest jump makes him a key ‘doer’ in the union cabinet, thanks to his record since he joined . Thankfully, the Prime Minister and his advisors have realised that the Power sector is too important, and at a critical stage to be left to career politicians.

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The Start

During his term in the union cabinet so far, the former bureaucrat, inducted  both for his familiarity with the bureaucracy and the power sector, has made enough of an impact to earn the grudging admiration of all, including detractors from 2017. Under his watch, India’s renewable march has continued apace, despite regular obstacles, pitfalls and what not, much like a typical road in his constituency of Arrah, Bihar. A constituency where he has pulled off the feat of winning twice in succession. Thus, even if India will miss its target of 175 GW of renewable energy by next year, Singh will not be blamed for lack of effort.  We have highlighted earlier how key issues remain to be tackled. One hopes that by 2024, most of these should be ticked by the more empowered power minister now.

Key Achievements

Be it the power for all initiative (Saubhagya)  that ensured basic electricity access for every household, or his relentless push for discom reforms, considered one of the biggest roadblocks for virtually every ill in the power sector, Mr Singh has been a visible and active minister. Managing both the Power and MNRE portfolios couldn’t have been easy either, considering the frequently cross purposes at which both the ministries work. And with India’s legacy dependence on thermal power. However, to his credit, Singh has ensured that during his tenure, the country has not missed out on the benefits of low cost solar or renewable energy in general, even as multiple constituencies including domestic manufacturers have pushed for higher protections. Now, he faces the daunting task of making an equally ambitious domestic scheme, PM KUSUM work, besides ensuring solar and other renewable energy segments grow to meet India’s 2030 commitments.

Last but not the least, has been a much required shift towards treating the consumer with respect.

Preparing For A Legacy

With his stint in the power sector upgraded and extended, Singh finally has an opportunity to make the kind of impact and changes that serve as his long term legacy. A big start would be the successful piloting of the Electricity Amendment Bill (2020) through Parliament, simply because it impacts so much of what he needs to achieve in the future. Managing multiple states governments, including opposition ruled states that have become virtually blind opponents of everything from the centre, will be a huge task, and require Mr Singh to use all his skills as a successful officer across different governments from his IAS days.

Balancing the demands of Atmanirbhar Bharat versus the dominance of China especially in the solar supply chain would also be a massive challenge, considering the price sensitive nature of India’s power markets.  Or its cascading effect on multiple other transitions underway, be it to Electric Vehicles, or further electrification of other sectors. While multiple plaudits and appreciation has come his way, Mr Singh will realise that the truly long term, decisive shift in trajectory is still awaited in the power sector. The future awaits.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International