Like with all things associated with the NDA government, there is no confirmation. But even before Union Home minister Amit Shah announced the momentous decision on Article 370 and converting Jammu and Kashmir to a Union Territory, political and administrative circles have been abuzz with speculation on who the new occupant of the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar will be.
There is consensus over two aspects. That the person has to be someone who is in sync with Delhi and understands what the short-term and long-term goals of the Narendra Modi dispensation are with respect to this sensitive border Union Territory. Two, it has to be someone who understands the security aspect as well as the politics.
Which is perhaps why since Saturday, the name of ESL Narasimhan, the current governor of Telangana has been doing the rounds. Narasimhan, a former IPS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre spent many years in service working in the Intelligence Bureau. More critically, he has worked with Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor and many believe that it is this relationship that has made him the only Governor surviving from the UPA era. He was appointed Governor of Chhattisgarh in 2007 and moved to united Andhra Pradesh in 2009. He continued in Raj Bhavan post bifurcation as well and only last month, was replaced as Governor of Andhra Pradesh but continues in Hyderabad.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik has been a career politician and going by his utterances, did not seem to be in the loop over what was going to happen in his state. Since Kashmir is likely to see curfew and boots on the ground for a significant amount of time, Delhi may want someone who understands the security lingo, the emphasis on intel gathering and also has a political temperament. Jammu & Kashmir also has been bifurcated and downgraded to a Union Territory and the Centre may want a Lt Governor who has experiencing of handling issues arising out of bifurcation. Narasimhan, of the choices Delhi has, ticks all the four boxes.
It is also pointed out that Narasimhan has displayed a haste in the last couple of months in settling the contentious issues relating to bifurcation, especially division of properties between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This is being taken as an indication that he could have been tipped off for the more tough assignment. One doubt that however remains is whether a Governor can or should be made Lt Governor, seen as lower in the pecking order.
The flip side however, is that Narasimhan has been out of an active policing or intel gathering job for much over a decade. Being an occupant of Raipur Raj Bhavan in a Maoist-affected state or experiencing the Telangana agitation firsthand is not considered good enough preparation for what arguably will be the toughest gubernatorial assignment in India. More so when Jammu & Kashmir is under President’s rule and is looking to conduct elections by the end of the year or early 2020.
The name of former Home secretary and current CAG Rajiv Mehrishi is also being spoken of in IPS circles as a possible choice. Mehrishi who presided over the Home ministry during one of the troubled patches in Kashmir is seen as more up to date with the situation on the ground and more plugged in to the stakeholders, both elected and unelected, in the Valley. Narasimhan, it is felt, will have to start from scratch.
The Modi regime has been known to pack in the surprise element. Which is why no one is sure if it indeed will be Narasimhan in the hot seat.
The counter argument to appointing a bureaucrat – IPS or IAS – is that Kashmir needs the healing touch at this point in time after having been administered an injection from Delhi. A bureaucrat with a ramrod approach and a penchant to go by the rulebook, will never be able to reach out in a manner a seasoned politician can.
Categories: Political Pickle