New J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik Impressed BJP Top Brass in 2015
It was back in 2015 when Malik was appointed by Amit Shah as convenor of a BJP committee, that he impressed Modi.
Satya Pal Malik, the new Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, made a mark three years ago, when he ably handled negotiations over amendments to the Land Acquisition Act. He negotiated between farmers’ lobbies and the government to ensure that the amendments did not cause an agitational backlash.
Indeed, some agitations had already taken place before that, and Malik was one of those who addressed public meetings on the issue at places like Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
Malik Made a Mark in 2015
In 2015, BJP President Amit Shah appointed Malik as the convenor of a party committee, to negotiate with farmers about the provisions of the proposed amendments. Several farmers’ groups viewed these as being against their interests.
It is believed that Satya Pal Malik earned the respect of top party leaders, including Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi, due to the way in which he handled those difficult negotiations.
It is said that he did not shy away from speaking vigorously to the party bosses to press for some of the farmers’ demands. This willingness to speak up in order to ensure that the party did not face a backlash, apparently impressed the top leaders. Observers speak of other aspects of Malik’s profile, such as his clean reputation with regard to corruption. He was minister of state for civil aviation in the VP Singh government in 1990, which was supported from outside, by the BJP.
This is apparently an important consideration for the new appointment, since the Centre has made it a priority to ‘clean up’ the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure an efficient, responsive governance machinery. Malik will be directly responsible for this, as the state is under Governor’s Rule.
Malik’s Bihar Experience
After Ram Nath Kovind became the BJP’s candidate for President in 2017, the party’s top leaders chose Malik to replace him as the Governor of Bihar. The fact that Malik was only appointed at the end of September 2017, about three months after Kovind had resigned from the Bihar Governor’s post, indicates that the top leaders of the BJP gave much thought to the choice. Malik has apparently functioned to their satisfaction in Bihar.
The political relationship between the BJP and the ruling Samata Party has been uncertain, but Malik has apparently managed to maintain the impartiality of his position as Governor.
This was a notable accomplishment for Malik, since he has had close links with both the BJP and with leaders of the Samata Party, which rules in Bihar.
He had first come to know Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during the JP movement in the mid-70s. Satya Pal Malik had been elected to the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 1974 from Baghpat, Lok Dal leader Charan Singh’s pocket borough. In 1990, Malik and Nitish Kumar both served as ministers of state in the VP Singh government. On the other hand, Malik had subsequently joined the BJP, and become a national vice-president of the party.
The Way Forward
Impartiality and skill at handling conflicting political claims will be even more urgently required in the disturbed situation in Jammu and Kashmir. There are conflicting pulls and pressures from Valley-based political groups on the one hand, and Jammu-based formations, including the BJP, on the other. Valley-based parties include the National Conference, the PDP, the dissident faction within the PDP, and the People’s Conference, which is led by Sajad Lone.
The dissident faction of the PDP has been hopeful that they would be able to support Sajad Lone to form a new government, with support from the BJP.
At the same time, the personal links of the new governor with top leaders of both the PDP and the National Conference have become obvious since his appointment. Almost as soon as he was appointed, Satya Pal Malik made a statement describing the late founder of the PDP, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, as ‘a friend’ and ‘a wonderful person’.
Moreover, National Conference President Farooq Abdullah went to the airport to receive him in Kashmir, and Malik met him warmly.
Malik has known both Abdullah and PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti during his career in politics and as a member of Parliament. The personal rapport will no doubt stand him in good stead as he undertakes a very challenging task.
(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and senior journalist. He can be reached at @david_devadas. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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