BJP-PDP end alliance: 10 years of experience and innate knowledge of state may earn governor Vohra an extension

Who will be the new governor of Jammu and Kashmir? The incumbent governor Narendra Nath Vohra's second term ends on 28 June, and there is no clarity whether he would be granted another five-year term or be replaced by someone else. However, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling off the alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor's Rule being imposed in the state, Vohra remains in pole position to oversee the administration.

Vohra, 82, was appointed governor in June 2008, replacing controversial former army General (Retired) SK Sinha during the Amarnath land row agitation. Sources said the names of former army chief General (Retd) Dalbir Singh Suhag and the Centre's interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma were also being discussed by the Union home ministry.

File image of NN Vohra with Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. AFP

File image of NN Vohra with Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. AFP

Sources said Vohra is reluctant to continue as governor after his term ends. However, officials in the state administration want him to continue, since they have worked with him for a long time and know his style of functioning and administration. Moreover, New Delhi would also want to avoid appointing a fresh face in the state because it could disrupt the smooth functioning of the administration.

In the 10 years he has been governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Vohra has worked with four chief ministers: Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti, and all four have been full of praise for the octogenarian. Omar Abdullah said Vohra has proved to be an able administrator, but added that no political party in a democracy would believe in the demise of an elected government.

Before being appointed Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Vohra was the Centre's interlocutor on the Kashmir issue in 2003, and had held talks with mainstream and separatist leaders of the Valley. Even when the state was under Governor's Rule in the past, Vohra had proved himself an able administrator, and was even able to change the way the bureaucracy in the state functioned.

Vohra, who served as principal secretary to then prime minister IK Gujral and as Union home secretary and defence secretary, had recently apprised New Delhi about his wish to not seek a fresh tenure, but was asked to continue.

With Governor's Rule in place in the state, Mehbooba Mufti is a free person. In her first press conference after stepping down as chief minister, she warned the Centre that a muscular policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. Analysts said that Mehbooba would not be held responsible if the situation were to deteriorate further, but being a street-smart politician, she would want to give time to the governor.

While they also argue that any deterioration of the situation would prove Mehbooba's point — that a muscular policy would only boomerang on the administration — if the situation is to improve, it may prove Vohra's administrative acumen.

During his previous tenure, in 2008, Vohra's administration wasn't free of controversy. Large-scale civilian deaths took place in the aftermath of the Amarnath land agitation, when the PDP pulled out of a Congress government.

In 2017, in a bizarre 16-page order titled 'Social Media Usage Policy for Government Employees' issued by the state's general administration department, new "guidelines" were written into law by Governor NN Vohra, specifying how over 4.8 lakh government employees in the state must behave on social media. The order warned the employees against "engaging in discussions on social media by way of tweets, status updates, posts or blogs which are political in nature" or on "contentious issues violative of applicable service conduct rules, which have the potential to create governance or law and order issues or are seen to propagate anything which is anti-social, anti-national or illegal".

With BJP's popularity graph going down, there's a belief in Kashmir that the party wanted to break the coalition to build a narrative ahead of the 2019 elections. Analysts say the BJP would like to have an iron fist policy on Kashmir in order to convey voters across the country that the party's policy in Jammu and Kashmir is best for the country.

The challenge ahead of Vohra is not only to provide good governance, but also to stop the killings and to prove that things can work in Kashmir without an iron fist policy.


Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 09:59 AM

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