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Why Jammu & Kashmir Got Girish Murmu As Its First Lt Governor

GC Murmu, credited with the ability to figure out legal strategies in difficult situations, must utilise his talent.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
Image of J&K’s first L-G, GC Murmu, used for representational purposes.
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The appointment of Girish Chandra Murmu as Jammu and Kashmir’s first lieutenant governor from 31 October, makes it seem that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is personally in charge of how the new union territory is going to be run.

Murmu had worked closely with Modi as principal secretary when Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat — and with Home Minister Amit Shah when Murmu was additional home secretary, and Shah the home minister. He adroitly handled sensitive cases and controversies, such as those involving the 2002 Gujarat riots, so that Modi remained legally unstained.

Again, after the coup that brought GM Shah to power in 1984 came unstuck, Governor’s Rule was only kept for six months in 1986, even though Governor Jagmohan was eager to continue.

He is a no-nonsense officer who executes tasks entrusted to him. A low-key bureaucrat, Murmu will be more than a contrast to former Governor Satya Pal Malik —who frequently made piquant remarks.

Modi and Shah have already closely supervised the state for a couple of years. The most powerful official in the state since Governor’s Rule was imposed in mid-June 2018 has been Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, who had also worked closely with Modi, as private secretary to the prime minister.

Shift in Policy

The pattern of appointing top officers who are distinctly identified with the prime minister, is a sharp shift from the policy of the previous seven decades. From Nehru’s early days down to Mehbooba Mufti’s stint as chief minister, the Centre had generally sought to ensure that New Delhi was not directly responsible for actions taken in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indeed, the spirit of the erstwhile state constitution’s provision for Governor’s Rule —which was different from the Centre-imposed President’s Rule — was upheld when Governor LK Jha dissolved the state assembly in 1977 without referring to the Centre, after the Congress tried to take over power from Sheikh Abdullah.

Governor’s Rule remained in force for four months, during which elections were held. Abdullah won a resounding majority.

Again, after the coup that brought GM Shah to power in 1984 came unstuck, Governor’s Rule was only kept for six months in 1986, even though Governor Jagmohan was eager to continue.

The most powerful official in the state since Governor’s Rule was imposed in mid-June 2018 has been Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, who had also worked closely with Modi, as private secretary to the prime minister.
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Centre’s Larger-than-Life Role in Kashmir Politics

By contrast, the Centre has played a larger-than-life role over the past couple of years. BJP-RSS leader Ram Madhav made frequent trips, and held important political meetings. And Subrahmanyam made his clout apparent from the time he was appointed chief secretary.

He took charge of a press conference of the governor a few weeks ago, answering several questions directly. Then, turning to the Advisor (Security) K Vijay Kumar, he told journalists to now hear what the Advisor had to say too. Malik watched quietly, wide-eyed.

A sharp administrative mind must be applied to the complications that might result if the existing AGMUT and/or DANICS (lower-level) cadres — meant for union territories — are to be posted to the new union territories.

Subrahmanyam, a 1986 batch officer, was empanelled in October for a secretary-level post at the Centre. Over the next few months, Murmu may appoint his own team of top officers, in consultation with the home minister and prime minister.

Kashmiris will watch with keen interest, what happens to the key officers who have held power as divisional commissioner and additional director-general of police, since the last phase of Mehbooba Mufti’s time as chief minister.

The brothers — Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan and ADG Muneer Khan — wield extraordinary power. Both were given one-year extensions on 30 June in view of ‘their role in handling crisis-like situations and interests of the state’.

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J&K Becomes a Union Territory: State Cadre Will Have to be Divided

Murmu, who is credited with the ability to figure out legal strategies in difficult situations, will have to bring that talent to bear, to sort out the legal and administrative anomalies that might arise from the unprecedented step of downgrading a state to a union territory.

These issues could be further complicated by the fact that this state hitherto had a special status and a separate constitution. The state cadre will have to be divided, so that some officers at each level are posted in each of the new union territories.

And a sharp administrative mind must be applied to the complications that might result if the existing AGMUT (Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territories) and/or DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) (lower-level) cadres — meant for union territories — are to be posted to the new union territories.

If so, glitches involving seniority and emoluments would have to be sorted out. Many police officers in the erstwhile state were given extraordinarily swift out-of-turn promotions over the past quarter century, as rewards for counter-terrorism operations.

(The writer is the author ofThe Story of Kashmir’ andThe Generation of Rage in Kashmir’. He can be reached at @david_devadas. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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