IN THE run-up to the reshuffle, there were several signs that the Rural Development Ministry may be taken away from Birender Singh and handed over to Narendra Singh Tomar.
A couple of months ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday programme, he put Tomar, who was then the mines and steel minister, in charge of coordinating his marquee initiative meant as a major outreach to India’s villages, instead of handing over the responsibility to Singh, then the Rural Development Minister.
Besides Modi’s dissatisfaction with his work, Singh’s ouster is also being blamed on the negative feedback from the RSS. Singh, who was with the Congress for four decades before joining the BJP in 2014, was perceived as an outsider by the RSS — which may be a reason why most of the personal staff assigned to Singh in the ministry were from the organisation.
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Tomar, on the other hand, has known RSS links.
A major grouse of the RSS was that Singh, a prominent Jat leader from Haryana, focussed on his home state. “The RSS sent a negative report on Singh to the PM who was anyway not very happy with the work of the ministry. While the PM wanted the Rural Development Ministry to be more in touch with the ground realities in villages across the country, much of Singh’s work was meant for Haryana,” said sources.
Several of the PM’s pet projects were from Singh’s rural development and drinking water and sanitation ministry. These include Swachh Bharat mission, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (model village scheme) and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana. “The PM was particularly unhappy about the slow progress made on each of these three programmes,” said sources.
Sources said that at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Modi even indicated that the department’s ministers of state were relatively inexperienced. Minister of State for Panchayati Raj Nihal Chand Meghwal was dropped in the reshuffle yesterday.