The appointment of Manoj Sinha as Lieutenant Governor (LG) of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is an indication that the Centre is using a soft political touch to reach out to the people of the UT.
Alienation in Jammu and Kashmir has increased after the Bharatiya Janata Party removed Article 370 on August 5, 2019. The move has created a political vacuum in the UT that has emerged as a major challenge for the Centre after Article 370 move.
Sinha would replace G.C. Murmu who resigned on Wednesday evening. Murmu was appointed as the LG of Jammu and Kashmir on October 31 last year. His resignation coincided with the first anniversary of the withdrawal of autonomy to J&K under Article 370 and 35 A.
It is believed that Murmu’s stand on President’s Rule and restriction on 4G internet didn’t go down well with the Centre. In an interview, Murmu had said that President’s Rule in J&K cannot be in place indefinitely and that “elections would not be very far”. He had also said that the J&K government has no objection to the restoration of 4G internet in the UT.
The Election Commission had reacted to his comments by saying that all decisions on the conduct and timing of elections are its “sole remit”. Murmu’s comments on internet had also run contrary to the arguments by the Centre in the Supreme Court regarding a petition on the restoration of 4G. The Centre had invoked national security to justify the restriction on 4G in J&K.
Murmu had also reportedly developed differences with J&K’s chief secretary who is considered close to the BJP.
Though an experienced bureaucrat, Murmu lacked the political approach that Centre is expecting from Sinha. A seasoned politician, Sinha also possesses administrative skills, having served as minister of communications and minister of state for railways in the past.
An Alumni of IIT-BHU, Varanasi, he lost the last Lok Sabha election to strongman and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Afzal Ansari. He was also a contender for chief minister post after the BJP won the 2017 UP assembly elections. His appointment suggests that the Centre wants greater coordination with the UT, and also between the officers running the show in the UT.
Sinha is the second grassroots politician who has been appointed J&K governor after Satya Pal Malik. Malik was appointed governor of J&K in August 2018, and held the post when the BJP decided to strike down the constitutional provisions that granted limited autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.