August 2018 News

To Kashmir, On Shah Ticket

21 August 2018
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Sankarshan Thakur

New Delhi: Mystified though most are by his appointment as Jammu and Kashmir governor, Satya Pal Malik travels from the Raj Bhavan in Patna to the vastly more spectacular one in Srinagar on an Amit Shah ticket. Malik, who began his politics in socialist precincts and joined the BJP late career, is known to have wormed his way into the confidence of the powerful BJP boss over recent years. The axis: calibrating the troublesome, often intractable, Jat politics for the BJP in western Uttar Pradesh, where Malik comes from. 'Nobody doubts Satya Pal Malik is very close to Amit Shah,' a BJP insider told The Telegraph shortly after his surprise pick to replace veteran N.N. Vohra as governor of Jammu and Kashmir. 'Over recent years, they have quietly developed a relationship of confidence; no surprise that he got posted to the key state of Bihar, and now Jammu and Kashmir.' Executive boss of Jammu and Kashmir must be the most important job Malik has been handed in his career; more wracked by violence and disaffection than ever before, the province is currently under governor's rule, which means Malik will be at the steering wheel of India's most trouble-ridden state with little or no administrative experience to speak of. More from Homepage Image Tribal hostels of Jharkhand 'th The Telegraph Centre sifts research the The Telegraph Rahul hands party purse t Image Nota not for RS: Court Malik had one short term as Lok Sabha MP (as Janata Dal candidate from Aligarh 1989-1991) and two earlier terms in the Rajya Sabha. For a while, he served as junior minister or parliamentary affairs and tourism in the V.P. Singh government. But he has mostly traversed the peripheries of mainstream politics and hibernated before be bounced back after joining the BJP during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's run for power in February 2014. Before landing his high-voltage job, Malik was governor to Odisha and to Bihar. For Kashmiris, who he must now govern, Malik is an entirely unknown entity; his appointment was met in the Valley with a sense of consternation: 'Who is Satya Pal Malik?' Lack of a history or background in Kashmir could have its advantages; Malik travels to the Srinagar Raj Bhawan, a lavish sprawl located on the midriff of the Zabarwan Hills overlooking the Dal Lake, with little baggage, so to speak. He doesn't have an RSS background written into his bio, always a red-rag to Kashmiris, and his BJP stabling is of recent vintage. That may be a handy fig-leaf for Malik to land on. There may be, therefore, a cautious restraint among prominent Kashmiri voices about how to react to his appointment, at least to being with. Till the time of writing, for instance, neither of the two major political formations of the Valley, the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) had officially offered a view on what they thought of Malik replacing Vohra, who has been at the current job more than a decade. Malik, who said he 'understood the responsibility being placed upon him', will have his task cut out. Kashmir has been in a violent roil for more than a year now. Encounters between security forces and armed militants are a daily affair, as are street uproar and violence often aimed at disrupting security operations. Civilian authority, especially in the districts of south Kashmir, has seldom been under as severe a challenge. To add to that, there is the impending challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court, which an overwhelming section of Kashmiris consider an attempt to undo their special status in the scheme of their accession to the Indian state. Both the NC and the PDP have strongly opposed any bid to set aside Article 35 A.