Lt Gov Manoj Sinha

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Manoj Sinha takes oath as new lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir’s tragically “interesting” times have retained the surprise element throughout the period governance was taken over by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). NN Vohra, the longest-serving governor of Jammu and Kashmir, was having a dentist’s drill in his mouth when he was conveyed to pack his bags. His successor and one of the loudmouthed persons who ever lived in the Srinagar Raj Bhawan, Satya Pal Malik had even ‘volunteered’ to stay back at demoted Lieutenant Governor’s position from October 2019 but was shifted in such a way that he had no farewell party. GC Murmu was busy in the administrative council – the highest decision-making body comprising the LG and his advisers, and all the meeting were in line that Twitter announced his transfer.

“In a strange coincidence both the last Governor of J&K state & the 1st Lt Governor of the Union Territory of J&K have been removed when they least expected it,” Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter. “They both had a full schedule of meetings planned when they got the order to pack & leave rather unceremoniously.”

In around 23 months, the third ‘ruler’, Manoj Sinha was administered the oath of office as Naya Kashmir’s second LG. His appointment came on the very first anniversary of the reading down of Article 370 and downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir state into two UTs, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Sinha, BJP’s Bumihar politician from Eastern UP, is reported to have been the darling of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his ABVP days in the Banaras Hindu University. He was Minister of State for Telecommunication in Modi’s first term as the Prime Minister. He has been to parliament thrice but he lost 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Ghazipur. By all means, Sinha was supposed to be the Chief Minister of Utter Pradesh in 2017. He had actually gone to pay his respects to the gods and deities that a phone call by the RSS General Secretary, Suresh Joshi, according to the Print website led to the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Executive of India’s most powerful (number of seats in the Lok Sabha) state.

A civil engineer, Sinha, according to The Indian Express is “hard taskmaster” and “quick decision-maker”. Since 1989, he is on BJP’s national council as a member. The former MP was home in the pandemic triggered lockdown. One of his friends, S K Sinha, a professor at BHU was quoted by The Print that Manoj Sinha had said that he had so much of time in the lockdown that he read “Ramcharitmanas and Sanskriti Ke Char Adhyay twice”.  After the Prime Minister and Home Miniter decided to change the Jammu and Kashmir LG, Sinha was asked to report to Delhi and informed about his new assignment.

Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha during his visit to SMHS Hospital

There was a lot of speculations about the sudden shift of Delhi’s top man in Srinagar. One report attributed it to his twin statements, one about holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir, and another about the possibility of restoring the 4G internet service still banned for a year now. Another report said that he fell victim to the bureaucratic intrigue in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet another report said that at the time of his appointment, he was told that he would require to be in Jammu and Kashmir for a year but it was ended almost a quarter ahead.

Three reasons were given out by BJP leaders informally to media for the change. Firstly, they wanted somebody who had no desperation for personal publicity. Secondly, for administrative restructuring, Delhi required a bureaucrat and that was why Murmu was sent as the first LG of the Jammu and Kashmir carved out of one of the oldest states in the subcontinent. Now, in the second phase, the government felt a need to have a politician in the driving seat who will go for outreach and try to manage the political vacuum.

The new Lt Governor, according to media reports tried to create a distinction at the very start of his arrival. As he landed in an aircraft, he was requested to get into a chopper for his flight to the picturesque Raj Bhawan. Reports said he refused and instead asked for the vehicle. Besides, he is reported to have refused to get into the Raj Bhawan till his predecessor, GC Murmu, cleared the Raj Bhawan from his belongings. He stayed in the Nehru Guest House.  Murmu, incidentally had to fly the same day to Delhi for taking oath for another constitutional position. The same night he was seen visiting the SMHS Hospital. A day after he was in Delhi.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha

After being administered the oath of office, Sinha said apart from restoring peace and accelerating the developmental activities in Jammu and Kashmir, his administration’s priority is to initiate “direct dialogue” with the people. While Dr Jitendra Singh, a minister in the PMO flew to Srinagar and be part of the oath-taking event (he had a closed-door meeting with Sinha before that) along with the joint flock of BJP and Apani Party, all the parties in Jammu and Kashmir – the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress, stayed away.

“We need to establish a dialogue with the common people of Jammu and Kashmir. We don’t have any agenda in that. There is a need to instill confidence among the common people of J&K in democracy. There will be no discrimination against anyone. The Constitution of India would work as Gita for us,” Sinha is reported to have said. “We will work within the framework of the Constitution of India to take Jammu and Kashmir towards inclusive development and peace. We will like to have a better understanding of people’s problems and issues and will try to address them. I assure the people that I will try to come up to their expectations and take J&K forward on vision and mission on making this UT a model to emulate.”

Sinha termed August 5 – observed as Black Day by all parties, as “a very important day” as it ended “a long era of isolation, discrimination and lack of development” for Jammu and Kashmir.

Later, he drove to civil secretariat where he presided over the maiden introductory meeting with the administrative secretaries. He told about his style of governance to the officers and asked them to rededicate themselves for the Naya Kashmir.

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