A LIFE-LONG BUREAUCRAT
India Today|December 07, 2020
The theatre is closed thanks to the pandemic; so, backstage workers are coming out to perform.
Ashok V. Desai

PORTRAITS OF POWER

Half a Century of Being at Ringside.

by N.K. Singh RUPA

The theatre is closed thanks to the pandemic; so, backstage workers are coming out to perform. We have just had the memoirs of Montek Singh and his wife; now comes NK. In the short while we coincided in the finance ministry, I never heard anyone call NK anything else. Now I learn that Pranab Mukherjee, who became minister many times, president once, and missed being prime minister at least once, called him Nandu. Another Singh once said to me about a third Singh: “You had better get on with him! He has worked with three prime ministers. He is indispensable.” He did not say that about NK, but was just as indebted to him.

NK traces his ancestry on his father’s side to Narayan Singh, a zamindar in Rajasthan in the late 18th century, and on his mother’s side to Rao Jodha, 15th-century maharaja of Jodhpur. His father was in the Indian Civil Service; he died early. He had 2,000 rose plants in his garden; NK has got to 500. His mother was the daughter of a Bihari zamindar; she eventually became a Congress MP. His wife came from the royal family of Jodhpur. His siblings went mostly into government service.

He was in the Indian Administrative Service for 40 years. He had 16 assignments—three in Bihar, one in Japan and the rest in the central government. First in the commerce ministry, then the home ministry, the finance ministry and, finally, in the Prime Minister’s Office with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Then he was elected to parliament. He was appointed chairman of the Finance Commission; it submitted its report on November 5. So, for the first time in half a century, NK is officially unemployed. During this long period, he worked for and with hundreds of politicians and civil servants; some 400-500 of them figure in his memoir.

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