Padma Bhushan to Jamir, Baig reveals govt. thinking

S.C. Jamir. File photo: Vivek Bendre

S.C. Jamir. File photo: Vivek Bendre  

While former Nagaland CM had helped in Naga talks, PDP leader has been talking of the need for a new front in J&K

The process of selection of Padma awardees has been rejigged in the past six years to make it less Delhi-centric and more inclusive of the silent, below-the-radar social workers and activists; but within this list, there is always a political messaging that cannot be missed.

If last year, former President Pranab Mukherjee was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, this year, another Congress stalwart, former Nagaland Chief Minister S.C. Jamir, and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Muzaffar Baig have found their way to the Padma Bhushan list.

Mr. Jamir had been the Governor of Maharashtra and Odisha and had held the additional charge of Goa and Gujarat. He was one of the few Governors appointed during the United Progressive Alliance era to continue after the first Narendra Modi government came to power.

His Raj Bhavan stint, government sources say, brought him close to the then Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Modi, who appreciated his grasp of statecraft.

“In 2015, during the Naga Accord talks, there was some consultation with Mr. Jamir,” a source said. During the BJP’s national executive in Bhubhaneswar in April 2017, Mr. Modi, after calling on Mr. Jamir, who was then the Governor of Odisha, instructed party office-bearers dealing with the northeastern States to meet him.

“Jamir saab handed over a tonne of books on Naga history and asked the BJP functionary to meet him when he travelled next to Delhi,” a source said. The exchange underlined Mr. Modi’s deep appreciation of Mr. Jamir’s administrative skills.

Baig and the PDP

Amid the six-month lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, since the revoking of its special status under Article 370 and the continued imprisonment of three former Chief Ministers, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, Mr. Baig’s inclusion in the honours list begs a closer look.

Mr. Baig has, for the past month or so, been talking of the need for a new political front in the State, an aim that finds favour with New Delhi. Despite being one of the PDP founders, he went public with this move.

In the long arc of Mr. Baig’s political career, from defending Maqbool Bhat (ideologue of the extremist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) to forming a new political front after the dilution of Article 370, the Padma Bhushan signals more about what the government wants to achieve in Jammu and Kashmir — the restart of some political activity but by a cannibalised version of the PDP and the National Conference that will be more interested in “moving on” than lingering on the many vicissitudes of the Kashmir issue.

On the 71st anniversary of the Republic, the honours list reflects the government’s preoccupations.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 9:18:46 AM |

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