Iqbal M Khanday
Kashmir political arena is getting oddly belligerent at a time when government and governance were trying to connect, almost half a year later. The self-ouster of the top bureaucrat has only exposed the chinks in the relationship between the bureaucracy and the ‘first among equals’.
But in his request for VRS, three months ahead of his superannuation, Khanday regretted why the government turned down his request for delaying the cabinet meet by a few days as he was mourning a death in the family. The government called his junior IAS officer B R Sharma to be secretary to the cabinet.
Known for his ‘eventful’ career, Khanday felt the pinch over the ‘misusing’ of his absence for showing him down. For the man who battled tumour, walked unscathed from the sleaze scam and braved son’s demise before being elevated to the coveted post, the new dispensation was at odds with him. They were never on the same page ever since Mufti gave bear hug to Modi to pave way to ‘north pole-south pole’ alliance in J&K.
Insiders aware of the happenings suggest that Khanday’s absence and cabinet’s continuation in his absence were just symptoms of a crisis that was around since Khanday faced the heat of the new regime. Both the sides count factors for the impasse and in the given situation both are seemingly justified. The government did not shift Khanday because it did not want an impression that it is being done at the behest of BJP. Eventually that happened though by other means.
But while the 1978-IAS batch officer made the front page, the government reacted. The initial reaction was terse: Khanday is no martyr! But the dichotomy existed throughout. At least three senior cabinet ministers visited the officer requesting him to reconsider. He disagreed. Now an internal PDP issue is: why an influential trio, incidentally the three Pirs, forced an embarrassment on the party.
The argument now is: how after 37 years of service, a Kashmiri Muslim officer was shown the door and how his junior will follow the suit. And how there won’t be any Muslim Chief Secretary in the state for next one decade, at least.
Amid all this, Khanday says, he is a happy man. For his “care-free attitude”, many term him bureaucracy’s Farooq Abdullah. Like NC patron, they say, Khanday is mostly driven by his moods than methods. Speculations are already being minted about the post-retirement phase of the man, whose brush with controversies is notoriously famous.
What is, however, interesting to see is Khanday’s legacy. With BR Sharma all set to step in his shoes – if at all Mrs and Mr Arun Kumar and Khursheed Ganai permit, the administration is on auto-pilot. Sharma’s induction for the top post will make the already blazing rumour mills rage further – that the present dispensation is not so distinct continuation of the regime it replaced.