Article 35A: NN Vohra may have to go as Jammu and Kashmir governor over rising differences with state BJP
While Governor NN Vohra’s tenure expired in June this year, he was asked to continue in office till the time Amarnath Yatra had concluded in Kashmir. The Yatra is coming to end on 26 August.
Increasing differences between BJP leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and Governor NN Vohra over the continuation of Article 35A which bars outsiders from owning property in Jammu and Kashmir or getting government jobs in the state may result in the appointment of a new governor before the end of this month.
The Central government had to seek an adjournment of the case in the Supreme Court earlier after the state circulated a letter before the apex court seeking that the hearing be deferred on Article 35A in view of the preparations for the urban local bodies polls and panchayat elections. BJP sources said that the Centre was also forced to seek the deferment to avoid a showdown with Vohra and not to betray any differences publicly over the issue when the Amarnath Yatra was still going on. Vohra’s tenure was extended and he was told to continue till the time Amarnath Yatra was over in Kashmir.
Sources said that the BJP state leaders were in favour of former Punjab DGP, PS Gill, taking over as a head of the state even as the name of former Union home secretary and current Comptroller and Auditor General, Rajiv Mehrishi was also being considered for the position of the governor.
Former deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader, Kavinder Gupta, said, “The governor should change. Change is needed as he has been in the office for a long time. His third tenure has started and his tenure was extended till the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra.”
However, he said that the priority of the BJP is to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir, while adding that, “Article 35A is sub judice and it is to be decided by the Supreme Court".
The BJP leaders in Kashmir said that Vohra’s tenure could end any time after 15 August. In June 2008, Vohra had replaced Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha as the state’s governor. Before his appointment as the Jammu and Kashmir governor, he was Government of India's special representative for carrying out dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir from 2003 to 2008. His tenure was later extended in 2013.
While Vohra’s tenure expired in June this year, he was asked to continue in office till the time Amarnath Yatra had concluded in Kashmir. The Yatra is coming to end on 26 August.
Sources in BJP said that the state leadership was in favour of Gill to take over as the new governor. He was the election co-in charge of the BJP during the Assembly polls in Kashmir in 2014. However, BJP had failed to win any seat in Kashmir and the contest had remained restricted to National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Gill had spearheaded a number of anti-militancy operations in Kashmir and many surrendered militants were fielded by the BJP in the elections in Kashmir in 2014. However, none of them could give a close contest to the candidates of Congress, NC or PDP.
Gill who is a retired Jammu and Kashmir IPS officer was the Vigilance Commissioner before he took over as the DGP in Punjab in 2009. He was the Deputy Inspector General of Police of Central Kashmir range in 1994 when the militancy was at its peak and later supervised many anti-militancy operations as the IGP Kashmir.
But his tenure had remained marred with controversies over the incidents of “custodial torture” and killings. Gill was earlier associated with Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab before he joined the BJP.
He is considered to be close to BJP national general secretary, Ram Madhav, as well as the Minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Jitendra Singh. “Many people had joined the BJP in Kashmir when Gill was the Kashmir in charge,” said a BJP leader.
Earlier the name of Jammu and Kashmir interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, was also being considered for the office of the governor, but sources said that New Delhi was in favour of starting a fresh dialogue with separatist leaders.
Some of the Indian civil society leaders are likely to meet the separatist leaders in Kashmir after 15 August to look for any, “chances of roping in the Hurriyat leaders for a peace process in Kashmir".
BJP chief spokesman, Sunil Sethi, said that Gill was earlier present in a rally of the party at Kathua on the occasion of joining of former Congress MP, Lal Singh, into the party. He, however, said that he doesn’t hold any office in the party “as of now".
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