J&K parties find new L-G Manoj Sinha ‘too saffron’ as he is set to assume charge
Srinagar: The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have expressed both scepticism and displeasure at the appointment of Manoj Sinha as the new lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir in place of G.C. Murmu.
While NC vice-president and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to point out the “unceremonious” exit of Murmu, PDP spokesperson Firdous Tak reminded his followers of a controversial statement Sinha had made, that those pointing fingers at a BJP worker will not be safe.
Officials in the J&K administration, meanwhile, told ThePrint appointment of the senior BJP leader as the L-G is an attempt to restore political normalcy in the newly-formed union territory.
Senior UT government officials privy to the development said though former L-G G.C. Murmu, a career bureaucrat, was able to meet the expectations of the Narendra Modi government to carry out development work in J&K, his inability to rejuvenate the political ecosystem in Kashmir might have led to the Centre going for a replacement.
“Mr. Murmu had and continues to have a clean image. He didn’t tolerate nepotism, red tape and corruption but one of his mandates that he could not do much about was bringing on board politicians of Kashmir who remain disgruntled and alienated by the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent decisions taken after,” a senior UT government source told ThePrint. “The prolonged detention of politicians has caused an unprecedented level of hostility between them and the administration. The next L-G is the right candidate to weave in the political class.”
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Mainstream politicians in the Valley are, however, skeptical about Sinha’s appointment and his objectives.
“What kind of political outreach is this when our leaders continue to be under house arrest?” NC spokesperson Imran Dar asked. “Only yesterday (5 August), a meeting called by NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah was scuttled by sealing the road leading to his residence, while BJP workers were celebrating.”
PDP spokesperson Tak said, “There is scepticism about the new appointment due to the roots he holds in Sangh Parivar. It’s just one of those experiments the saffron brigade is doing in Jammu and Kashmir. The first governor proved to be more loyal than the king, the outgoing L-G was neither cordial with the bureaucracy nor the public, and this one is too saffron.”
He added that he “sincerely” hoped Sinha “acts impartially”.
“Going by the fact that he faced defeat in the election due to a combination of Dalits and Muslims must be in his mind. I sincerely hope he acts impartially, but our fears of demographic changes, settling outsiders, complete ouster of locals from administration, and selling out of our resources are taking shape. J&K has seen tough times but the worst is yet to come.”
Dozens of senior politicians in J&K were detained ahead of the scrapping of Article 370 last year, bringing a staggering halt to political activity by mainstream parties. The slapping of the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) against senior politicians, including three former chief ministers of J&K, had further affected the public life here.
While the NC and PDP top leadership (except for former CM Mehbooba Mufti) have been released, scores of politicians continue to remain under “house arrest”
A politician takes over
Unlike Murmu, Sinha is a politician.
The 61-year-old, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has served as the minister of communications and minister of state, railways. He was also tipped to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh back in 2017 before Yogi Adiyanath took over the top job in the state. Sinha then lost the 2019 parliamentary elections from Ghazipur.
Sinha’s appointment comes amid likely resumption of political activities. The NC had called an all-party meeting Wednesday to seek restoration of Article 370, but that had to be deferred due to fresh restrictions imposed in the Valley on the first anniversary of the 5 August move that stripped the erstwhile state of its special status.
Sinha also takes charge at a time when the Valley is witnessing demands for the restoration of statehood. Former CM Omar Abdullah has already declared that he won’t contest elections in a UT. Sinha’s arrival in Srinagar is expected to engage with political stakeholders to lay the ground for holding elections.
Another senior government official said Sinha, while having a hot and cold approach towards the politicians, will also be tasked with amplifying infrastructure development in J&K. “He is known to hold his juniors accountable for the work allotted to them,” said the official.
A third government source said the central government also wanted someone vocal, and more accessible to the people, for the job. “It is likely that Mr Sinha will be much more vocal than he was during his past stints. The outreach to political class will not be a soft affair,” the source said.
According to sources, the reshuffle in J&K bureaucracy had been on the cards for over a month now, especially after an alleged tussle between the offices of the L-G and that of the chief secretary.