Manoj Sinha appointed L-G of Jammu and Kashmir after Murmu resigns

Manoj Sinha was the Communication Minister and Minister of State for Railways in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first government but lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

August 06, 2020 10:41 am | Updated 08:38 pm IST - New Delhi

Former Communications Minister Manoj Sinha

Former Communications Minister Manoj Sinha

Former Minister of State for Railways and BJP leader Manoj Sinha was on Thursday appointed the new Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir after incumbent G.C. Murmu, a former IAS officer, resigned on Wednesday.

Also read:  Who is Manoj Sinha, the new Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir?

Mr. Sinha will be the third Governor / Lieutenant Governor appointed by the BJP government in J&K in three years -- Mr. Murmu's appointment was preceded by that of BJP leader Satyapal Malik -- who was sent to Goa as Governor when the State was reduced to a Union Territory.

The special status of J&K under Article 370 was revoked by Parliament on August 6 last year and it was bifurcated and downgraded into Union Territories -- J&K and Ladakh, the former with a Legislative Assembly. J&K has been under Central rule since June 2018 and the 87-member Assembly was dissolved in November the same year.

Interestingly, Mr. Murmu was in favour of restoring 4G connectivity, suspended since August 5 last year in J&K, a move opposed by the security agencies. The 4G ban was extended by the UT administration despite Mr. Murmu's publicly stated views.

Poll panel’s stand

Last week, the Election Commission of India (ECI) took exception to Mr. Murmu’s statement that Assembly elections would be held after delimitation. It said he had also made such remarks to the press, including to The Hindu . On November 18 last, Mr. Murmu told this newspaper that “unlike the UT of Ladakh, J&K is a UT with a legislature and there will have to be an elected government in place soon.”

On July 1, all senior J&K officers as well as Mr. Murmu and Chief Secretary B.V.R Subrahmanyam had a detailed meeting with Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in Delhi where development projects were reviewed.

Mr. Murmu waited for more than an hour in Mr. Bhalla’s office for the scheduled meeting as the latter was stuck in a COVID-19 related meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah.

The fate of Mr. Murmu's four advisors -- K.K. Sharma, Farooq Khan, R.R. Bhatnagar and Baseer Ahmad Khan -- is also not known.

“The President has been pleased to appoint Shri Manoj Sinha to be the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office vice Shri Girish Chandra Murmu”, a Rashtrapati Bhavan release said.

Mr. Murmu, a former Gujarat cadre IAS officer, has worked closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Shah. He is tipped to be the new Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG).

Differences with Subrahmanyam

His differences with Chief Secretary Subrahmanyam, a Chattisgarh cadre IAS officer on deputation to J&K, was widely known in corridors of power. The Centre was also unhappy with Mr. Murmu’s reported inability to take control of the administrative apparatus and his lack of public interaction.

A particular case in point was the domicile policy for government services in J&K notified by the Home Ministry on March 31 that offered protection to domiciles only in Group D and entry-level non-gazetted government posts. After an uproar by the J&K unit of the BJP, the order was reversed within 72 hours.

A senior government official said the confusion happened due to the oversight by the J&K administration. “It was one of the 109 laws amended by a Home Ministry notification. The lack of application of mind by the J&K bureaucracy while clearing the domicile policy was not taken well in Delhi. They should have examined it carefully before sending it to Home Ministry, which notified it as it is,” said a senior government official.

“From restoration of 4G to holding some local body polls, all of it has been only influenced by the situation in the Valley ignoring vast swathes of Jammu,” a source said.

The propping up of the Altaf Bukhari-led Apni Party also did not pay off and the question of political legitimacy of political outfits remains. The Modi government now believes that a politician could do better than a civil servant.

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