By Sunil Dang
The President of India, Ramnath Kovind, appointed the incumbent Governor of Bihar, Satya Pal Malik, as the new Governor of Jammu and Kashmir to replace NN Vohra who was asked to continue after completion of his second term in June till further orders. After Karan Singh’s exit from J&K Raj Bhawan in 1967, this is the second time in the state’s history when a career politician has been chosen by New Delhi for the assignment considered sensitive and critical. The decision to appoint Malik comes at a time when the states under Governor’s rule after the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government on June 19. After his appointment, political observers predicted that since he has worked closely with both Muftis and Abdullas, hence, he will be able to bridge the trust deficit between BJP and both the state regional parties. However, to their surprise, Malik debuted in J&K with golden duck as both National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have declined to contest in Panchayat Polls till the BJP clears its stand on the Article 35A. So, without participation of the strong regional forces, the Panchayat Polls would become meaningless.
From the geographical perspective of the J&K, neither BJP nor Congress has strong hold in the valley. Therefore, for inclusive politics, participation of the regional political forces is must. Since, both NC and PDP have put up a condition to participate in the Panchayat Polls, BJP finds itself cornered in its own game of throne. The BJP knows that the Panchayat Polls in J&K are not like any other state’s local body polls. The whole world will be looking at the developments, especially the ‘New Pakistan’ under Imran Khan and China whose ambitious OBOR has some stakes in J&K too. By appointing a career politician, BJP has unnecessarily made the Raj Bhawan a non-reliable office for the regional political parties as they believe Malik’s appointment is based on hidden agendas of the BJP, which wants to gain confidence in the state.
When the BJP stepped out of PDP-BJP coalition government, Congress had blamed that ‘BJP has no experience, no knowledge of Kashmir.’ In my opinion, Congress allegations are partially correct as BJP leadership failed to understand that while Jammu is a part of J&K, there are many differences between the people of Jammu and Valley. Relying on religious demography alone isn’t enough.. The way BJP has been conducting itself in J&K since the last assembly elections, even Hindus of Jammu are not happy with them. This whole exercise to come out of the state government and sending a career politician to replace NN Vohra in Raj Bhawan was to regain the ground they have ceded. In last few years, especially after the Kathua incident, there is huge divide between Jammu and Valley, and Panchayat Polls could have helped bridging that gap. So, in the wake of the importance of the Panchayat Polls and a career politician being sent in as J&K Governor, both PDP and NC have raised their pressure on the BJP to gain locally. They have put their ‘nationalist’ agenda at stake and if BJP fails to come clear on Article 35A, it would put doubt in rest of India — a risk that neither RSS nor BJP can afford.
It should be remember that Jammu and Kashmir is not like any other state where the central government would send or transfer its governor without consulting him or her. The central government must have talked to Satya Pal Malik before zeroing-in on him for the coveted post of J&K Governor. During that consultation Malik must have promised something concrete that ensured the central leadership to ask the Bihar Governor to shift from Patna to Srinagar. So, in my opinion, both Central Government and Satya Pal Malik have bluffed the people of J&K as none of them have failed to deliver their promise.