Guv Malik’s Gaffe: Does Centre Always Manipulate J&K Politics?

What does J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik’s slip of tongue say about Centre’s role in the state’s politics?

Updated30 Nov 2018, 09:08 PM IST
3 min read

The Centre is in a stew over the recent fiasco regarding government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Well-informed sources say there has been much criticism within the government, even at the highest level, of the way things have been handled.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and some in the national security establishment are said to be most displeased. Governor Satya Pal Malik, who is in the eye of the storm, even said on Wednesday, 28 November, that he might be transferred. If that indeed happens, it would be the result of his frequent public statements. Malik’s stating that the Centre wanted him to install Sajjad Lone as the chief minister, has been damaging to both Lone and those in charge at the Centre.

An Open Secret

Associates of Lone, whose People’s Conference party has two MLAs in the house, have even said that this could get him killed.

That could be interpreted to mean that being seen as the favourite of the BJP government at the Centre is so unpopular in Kashmir, that someone might kill him for it—something the BJP’s leaders would not want to hear.

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BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav is the putative strategist who seems to have miscalculated. It was his plan that there should be a period of governor’s rule in J&K, during which the state’s administration should be cleaned up, and then a government of his choice would be installed.

It has been an open secret ever since the BJP withdrew support to the Mehbooba Mufti-led government in July 2018, that Sajjad Lone was the Centre’s (or at least Madhav’s) choice for the chief minister’s chair.

Centre’s ‘Manipulation’ of Kashmir Situation

Amid the heartburn and criticism within the government over the past few days, top leaders have apparently made it clear that they were not party to some of the more sordid aspects of what has transpired. For instance, Mufti has alleged that central agencies such as the NIA have been misused to coerce MLAs.

This sort of talk bolsters the widespread impression in Kashmir that the Centre always manipulates, with unfair means, to get its way. The top brass of the BJP are said to have told Mufti that they are not aware of any such tactics.

Lone’s associates have been very hopeful that he would be installed with the support of the BJP’s 25 MLAs and breakaway groups from the PDP, the Congress, and the National Conference. Their hopes were on a roller-coaster since July, but remained intact until last week.

Their plans were overturned by the surprise move by three of the four substantial parties in the house (the other being the BJP) to form a government together. The move, which had been in the works over the previous few days, became public last Wednesday, 21 November. The house was dissolved that evening.

Unseemly Haste & an ‘Unholy Alliance’

Given the unseemly haste, it is unlikely that anyone focussed on the fact that the proposed alliance of three major parties would have been just short of two-thirds majority in the house. But the fact is that, with the help of a couple of single members, they could have attempted to amend the state’s constitution.

Lone, who put in a counter-claim immediately after Mufti did, apparently did not have the numbers. In any case, he could only have got a majority together through horse-trading. 

On the other hand, the claim by the three parties acting in tandem could not be faulted. Yet, the governor initially described it as an ‘unholy alliance’. Pointing out that no formal claim had reached him, he asserted that he had played fair by not inviting either group.

A Meeting in London

The three parties had come together after initial discussions at a meeting in London. The idea gathered steam even though NC leader Omar Abdullah was initially unhappy. Naturally! His party is set to gain from the general disappointment with the PDP’s governance in Kashmir. No wonder Omar has called for fresh elections since the day the BJP withdrew support to the PDP-led government in July.

(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. 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.)

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Published: 28 Nov 2018, 02:01 PM IST
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