Jammu and Kashmir has a new Governor. Former Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik was sworn-in on Thursday at a function at Raj Bhawan in Srinagar. At least, four hundred guests, including former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and union minister in Prime Minister's office Jitendra Singh, were present at the ceremony.
Malik replaced the longest-serving governor, Narendra Nath Vohra, who was given a two-month extension on the job after finishing 10 years as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Malik will be the first career politician to be appointed to the position in the last 51 years, indicating a change in the strategy of the centre which has so far relied on former bureaucrats to run show in the troubled state. Malik will face the daunting task of filling into Vohra's big shoes, who knew the state inside out, unlike any other career bureaucrat or politician.
Here are the five challenges the 13th Governor of Jammu and Kashmir will be facing at the onset.
Government formation: The state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be under Governor’s rule after the BJP suddenly pulled the plug on the 'unholy' alliance with Mufti's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The three-year-old coalition government came to an end and people surprisingly relieved. The governance under Vohra witnessed a remarkable improvement.
All eyes are on Malik now. Even though a few back channels negotiations have been going on to form a new coalition government in the state, Malilk, who sources say is close to BJP chief Amit Shah, will give a fresh push for a new government in Jammu and Kashmir. If there is a claim by BJP or rebel faction of PDP, Malik's role will be very crucial.
Article 35A: Kashmir is mostly to remain shut on 26 and 27 August as Supreme Court starts hearing petitions in Article 35A. The former governor had written a letter to the Centre asking them to defer the case. Article 35A is one the most emotive issues in Kashmir Valley. Jammu, too, recently has joined the chorus for the protection of the law that grants special privileges to the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The test starts from here onwards. It requires to be seen how he will deal with the issue because the previous governor had put his foot down on the issue of the Article 35A knowing very well that even a small change in the law would put the Valley on fire," Shakeel Qalander, an industrialist and a noted commentator, said.
Article 35A, the Jammu and Kashmir State Subject Law which defines permanent residents of the state, prevents non-locals from buying or owning property in the state. It has been challenged by an NGO, 'We the Citizens', and other groups in the Supreme Court.
Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies polls: N N Vohra announced the Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies elections in the state recently. The polls will start next month and stretch till the end of the year. The last panchayat polls in the state were held in 2011. It is a mammoth security challenge for the state administration. DGP SP Vaid has said security agencies have made all arrangement in order to conduct the elections in the state but the shadow of militancy related violence against political workers will loom large over the process. The former panch-s and sarpanchs have had a bitter experience after being elected. The challenge for Malik and his administration would be to facilitate a free, fair and violence free polls. And also create an atmosphere where people can participate in these polls.
South Kashmir: Since Governor Vohra took reins of the state, the number of cordon and search operations carried by forces in south Kashmir had drastically come down. "This was," as sources from the Indian Army said, a “calibrated move to avoid the civilian casualties”. The forces would only launch the operations if they were 100 percent sure about the presence of militants, unlike earlier instances where on any given day at least two dozen CASO were launched in different parts of Kashmir, which explains why the civilian casualties had remarkably come down during Vohra's reign. The former governor would stress on using modern technology to confirm the presence of militants in a particular area and before launching the operations to at least have four covers which would stop the protesters from thronging the encounter site. The policy worked.
Restoring faith in democracy: The PDP-BJP's alliance miserably failed to live up to the expectations of the people. Instead of bringing the culturally distinct regions of the state together, communal and sectarian tensions not only pulled these regions apart but also eroded the faith of people in democracy and its institutions. It is going to be a humungous challenge for Malik to restore this faith because democracy will only survive so long as people participate in its varied processes. This also includes creating an atmosphere for a dialogue with Separatists in Kashmir valley, and bridging the gap between the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 12:38 PM