Taking control of J&K
The Centre has appointed a full-time politician and former Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik as the new Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. After the fall of the PDP-BJP government in June this year, the state has been under the President's rule. The outgoing Governor, NN Vohra, who was in the office for nearly 10 years is a former bureaucrat who had served as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, and Defence Secretary. When the Centre imposed the President's rule in the state in the wake of BJP withdrawing from the government and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's resignation, analysts believed that Vohra, being an old Kashmir hand, would continue as the Governor. The ground realities in Jammu & Kashmir has not changed much in recent months. Though Indian security agencies are in control of the situation, the political process remains stalled. There were speculations that BJP might wean away some PDP MLAs and form its own government but that has not happened as yet. Now panchayat and urban local body elections are coming up in the state and BJP has decided to contest the polls across the state.
Satya Pal Malik is the first Governor in the state in last 30 years who is purely from a political background. Earlier, people from defence and bureaucracy were appointed as the Governor of the state to benefit from their expertise in security and administrative matters. Now, the government believes that security concerns are effectively addressed by the security forces deployed in the state and it is high time that the political process was initiated. Now, BJP, which had come second in the seat tally with 25 seats in the 2017 Assembly election clearly harbours the intention to rule the state on its own. The problem with regional parties, National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has been that they work as a middleman between the Centre and the separatist forces including the militants. PDP had won 28 seats and NC 15 in a house of 87 members. In order to keep their dominance in the state politics, these two regional parties have in effect sympathised with militant organisations and ruled the state with support from the Centre. Their stronghold lies in the Kashmir valley, the centre of militant activities and youth unrest. The other regions, Jammu and Ladakh, are largely peaceful and BJP has a strong influence on the voters there. The change in the Centre's approach to Jammu & Kashmir is a well-thought-out strategy of BJP to elbow out the regional parties and wrest power from them. A new Governor who comes from the political background would look at the Kashmir problem from a different perspective.
Last time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu & Kashmir, he had inaugurated the work on Rs 5,000-cr Zojila Pass tunnel project. Along with other projects, he had also inaugurated the work on a ring road in Jammu. The Centre seems to have made up its mind to stop playing second fiddle and take control of the situation. The state has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Centre's monetary grants but people still remained dissatisfied with the Centre. Now with the new Governor in office, BJP will have a complete control over the politics in the state. The party has already made its intentions clear to fight the upcoming local body elections. It expects to win these elections in Jammu and Ladakh regions. For long, BJP has been voicing its opposition to the policy of appeasement being followed in Jammu & Kashmir. It talked about the abrogation of Article 370 that provides for the special status to the state. Since it could not bring a Bill to repeal Article 370, it may try to achieve the goal by way of forming a BJP government in the state. The party has understood well that there is no point in continuing with the stalemate and believing that the situation would improve if a regional party is part of the government.
In the last few days, the Kashmir valley was tense and livid over the issue of Article 35A that protects the rights of 'permanent residents' of the state. Petitions raising questions over the legitimacy and the constitutional validity of Article 35A have been filed in the Supreme Court. The people in the Kashmir valley are extremely sensitive about the special rights granted to them by the Constitution. These rights were granted to ensure that people from other regions are not able to purchase land and settle there permanently, changing the demographic and cultural uniqueness of the state. The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court and this has put the valley on the edge.