Can Centre start J&K political process by changing L-G?
Srinagar: Even as new Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha took oath of office at the Srinagar Raj Bhawan on Friday, on the ground, lobbyism within the bureaucracy and political vacuum seems here to stay. Outgoing L-G G.C. Murmu was at loggerheads with the all-powerful J&K chief secretary and the tussle plagued the administration with laxity and inefficiency.
One year has passed since BJP abrogated Article 370, but nothing visible has changed either in J&K or in Ladakh. The two Union Territories were created by the Centre on 5 August last year. The Centre has decided to change the L-G of Jammu and Kashmir to move ahead with implementation of its agenda, especially in Kashmir valley.
Former Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu has been placed as CAG, while a senior BJP leader and former minister regarded to be from the inner core of the Modi-Shah circle, Manoj Sinha, has taken over as the new L-G of Jammu and Kashmir. He has to act fast in Kashmir as the political vacuum is only enlarging. With even restoration of statehood on the hold, BJP is in no hurry to provide oxygen to the regional parties like National Conference and PDP, whose many leaders and activists are still under detention, including former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
In the past one year, BJP leaders, especially Ram Madhav, have been desperately trying to bring a new political leadership in Kashmir and want to see the political demise of the NC and PDP, as the BJP feels that the Muftis and Abdullahs are part of the problem and not the solution.
According to political observers in Kashmir, the emergence of J&K Apni Party and other such outfits was the result of those efforts started by the BJP in Kashmir valley to replace traditional political parties like the National Conference.
Ram Madhav has been directly in touch with many “educated youth of Kashmir” and is keen to provide them space and other encouragement to replace National Conference and PDP from the political scene. Restoration of Article 370has taken the centre stage in Kashmir, as Omar Abdullah came under sharp criticism for trying to negotiate a way forward with the Centre for a genuine political process to get started with the restoration of statehood.
According to senior BJP leaders working in Kashmir, they want Central rule for more months till the delimitation process is completed. “We are sure that by delimitation, the Jammu region will get more Assembly seats and our aim of getting a Hindu Chief Minister in UT of J&K will be a reality,” a senior BJP leader told this reporter. He said that there has been political discrimination with Jammu from the past several decades and it will end very soon. “In such a scenario, the new L-G of Jammu and Kashmir will implement the roadmap handed over to him by the BJP Central leadership to change the political landscape in Kashmir,” said a senior leader of National Conference who expressed doubts even about the intentions of BJP to restore statehood.
The Centre is very keen to first complete the process of panchayat raj in Jammu and Kashmir. According to a senior official, outgoing L-G G.C. Murmu refused to conduct by-elections for 12,000 panchayat seats vacant in Jammu and Kashmir in the present situation. It seems that the new L-G will try to conduct these bypolls as soon as possible and “cultivate a new leadership” from the grassroots.
BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, who is handling Jammu and Kashmir, recently told in a television interview that all those regional parties of Kashmir who talk about resistance to the abrogation of Article 370, should join the Hurriyat. Ram Madhav said that all the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir should start from the fact that there is no special status now and it will never return.
In such circumstances, new L-G Manoj Sinha can do little to bring parties like National Conference and PDP to contest elections in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. But he will definitely encourage new faces, especially youth affiliated with BJP, to fill the political void in Kashmir.
But the recent killings of sarpanchs, most of the youth leaders of BJP, have shown that it is not easy to cultivate a new leadership from the grassroots in Kashmir valley.
New L-G Manoj Sinha will have to make the administration accountable before he embarks on the path of making politics relevant in Kashmir.