Ministers may graduate from the rank and file of the political class but they never shed their habits of making tall claims ~ possibly because they can seldom be held specifically accountable. It is impossible to predict where Mr Rajnath Singh will be three years hence, but his well-wishers will be hoping that there will be no “incident” in the Maoist belt in central India that provokes recall of his latest claim that within that time-frame Left Wing Extremism will have been eliminated.

No doubt that there will be excuses aplenty on offer if the writ of the government has not been re-established in the region, but the reality prevailing then will be factored into any assessment of the efficiency of the present home minister. Since he was addressing personnel of the Rapid Action Force of the CRPF the minister was entitled to some leeway, it was after all a morale boosting pep-talk.

Yet a home minister’s words carry far beyond a parade ground, more so since Maoist violence is a major internal security issue that has to be tackled with much more than speeches. At times tall claims can prove counter-productive, even trigger more violence since the miscreants feel they are required to prove themselves afresh.

To bolster his claim that the Maoists were under pressure, the minister referred to what the CRPF leadership has been saying for months. The Naxals (and he smartly refrained from dubbing them rural or urban) now held sway in 10-12 districts, significantly down from the earlier figure of 126. And in what must have reverberated across the drill-square like a roll of drums he spoke of how the security forces had neutralised 131 and arrested 1278 Maoists over the past year.

What would have fleshed out the minister’s case would have been his elucidating the conditions in the 116-118 “liberated” districts ~ how many kilometres of road, power lines etc been laid, the number of schools/hospitals functioning, how effective were the district administration or the local police, revenue collections etc. “Kill” rates are a poor way of projecting development, but the government is so obsessed with “muscle” that it blinds itself to larger realities. Hopefully, Mr Rajnath Singh will fill in some of those critical blanks when he next speaks on Left Wing Extremism ~ it serves a limited purpose if he takes a technical position that law and order is his ministry’s prime concern and that it is for other agencies to take up further development.

As was to be expected, the home minister also touched on the other internal security thorn ~ the Kashmir Valley. While yet again he lauded the role of the security forces, and emphasised that “no power in the world” will come in the way of the forces thwarting insurgency. Is that a dilution of his earlier claim that the “back of militancy has been broken”?