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Friday, February 5, 2016

How much politics behind appointment of Governor’s advisors?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 4: People greeting Parvez Dewan and Khursheed Ahmad Ganai on their appointment as Advisors to Governor invariably got a caveat: ‘This is for just 10 or 15 days’. Does that mean that the formation of the new PDP-BJP coalition under Mehbooba Mufti was around the corner?

Not necessarily, perhaps.

First, neither of the two brilliant, retired IAS officers---not even their Governor boss---does have an inkling of what exactly is cooking up in the two parties’ kitchen. Second, Mr Narendra Nath Vohra, himself a retired bureaucrat, has remained completely neutral and apolitical, unlike some of his predecessors, ever since the Vajpayee government appointed him as an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir followed by his appointment by the Manmohan Singh government as the Governor of the country’s most sensitive State in 2008.

Even if he has a wisdom of the political matters, Mr Vohra is not expected to share it with the closest of his friends and family members, let alone the two retired bureaucrats junior to him by a generation.

Clearly, Dewan’s and Ganai’s humility and civility could not be misconstrued as an apocalyptic prediction of the representative government’s formation in the middle of this month. The vacuum and resultant uncertainty may last for just one day, one month or one year. With the ball being in BJP’s and New Delhi’s court, daughter of the shrewd politician Mehbooba Mufti has not shut her doors. Notwithstanding her commitment to carry forward her father’s “vision” and “yearning for peace, development and integration”, she is standing her ground where she can do a U-turn and sever her father’s relationship with Prime Minister Modi and BJP.

Mehbooba has remarkably relented and downgraded her demand of “assurances” to “some confidence building measures” but not before stirring the prestige of her father’s coalition partner. In Jammu, as well as across the rest of the country, BJP has been at a receiving end for being soft to Pakistan and terrorism. Its partnership of power with a party known for its pseudo-separatist profile has not enamoured the right wing electorate, particularly in the Hindi-mainland. So the party needs “10 days” to decide whether it should sacrifice its electoral prospects in some larger States for its unpredictable Kashmir ally or it should continue the coalition “in the national interest”.

Indifference to the PDP President’s assertions, as of now, serves as an unmistakeable indication of the BJP’s larger concerns. Some political analysts are attributing the appointment of the Governor’s Advisors, constitution of the State Advisory Council (equivalent of the popular government’s Cabinet) and delegation of the Ministerial powers to the administrative secretaries to the “direct intervention” of the Centre through the union Ministry of Home Affairs. Most of the political parties too took it as the harbinger of the dissolution of Assembly and fresh elections.

“We don’t read too much in it but we can’t rule out that it is a tactics to bludgeon us to submission. They feel we have lost our ground completely and we may be scared of the fresh elections”, said a senior PDP leader and former Minister. He revealed that Ms Mufti may toughen her stand and posturing in the next couple of days and call upon the party workers to be ready for the snap polls.

Everybody though could be wrong again. Last year these days, when the prospects of a PDP-BJP alliance looked bleak but the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ had been almost worked out, Governor Vohra ordered a massive reshuffle in bureaucracy, administration and Police on January 27. Almost a month later, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over as Chief Minister of the coalition government and subsequently changed most of the incumbents appointed by Mr Vohra.

“This Governor has his own style of working. J&K witnessed it in 2008 as well as in 2014, though last year he did not go for appointment of the Advisors”, said a senior bureaucrat. He disclosed that in the first very week, after taking over on January 8, Mr Vohra had called for a list of all the lately retired officers of the rank of Secretary to Government of India (J&K cadre), Chief Secretaries and Financial Commissioners. “When everybody believed that Ms Mufti would take oath in one or two weeks of the mourning at her home, Governor zeroed in on Parvez and Khursheed for appointment as his Advisors”, the senior IAS officer added.

[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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