On August 5 evening, WhatsApp groups in Jammu and Kashmir were abuzz with rumours about the resignation of its first Lieutenant-Governor G C Murmu. The day also marked the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370. Meanwhile, the rumours grew stronger by late night. Given the nature of such rumours in Kashmir — more so since last year — Murmu had, in fact, resigned from his post. Murmu’s resignation, merely nine months after he took oath on October 31 last year, came as a surprise. The unceremonious exit of the former Lt. Governor was so quick that Thursday morning he was seen leaving the Raj Bhawan.
Sources attribute the sudden exit of Murmu to his discord with the civil administration and failure to fill the political vacuum created by the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K into two union territories – Ladakh and J&K.
Sources admit that even after one-year of abrogation of Article 370, the government has failed to make a tangible infrastructural development on the ground or create a sense of acceptability to the decision. “After one year we have nothing to show to people. We have failed in both infrastructural development and security situations,” said a senior security official.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had claimed that the abrogation of Article 370 would open floodgates for infrastructural development and bring peace to the conflict-raven region.
Murmu’s appointment as the first LG did not go well with the Chief Secretary BVR Subramanyam, who is likely to get Padma Bhushan this year on August 15 for his work prior to and after the abrogation of Article 370.
Instead of taking up developmental projects and launching a coordinated fight against CoVID-19, J&K witnessed a major discord between Raj Bhavan and the Civil Secretariat.
It was J&K Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari who made public last month the tussle between the all-powerful chief secretary of J&K and Murmu. Many observers argue that the Apni Party might not have uncovered the tussle without the consent of New Delhi.
Bukhari had met the Prime Minister and Amit Shah in Delhi in March seeking assurances on issues pertaining to J&K. Soon after the meeting, the government came up with domicile law, which was even criticised by Bukhari.
Bukhari’s party in June issued a statement saying governance in J&K had come to a grinding halt mainly because of “sharp groupism in bureaucracy which seems to be busy in proving loyalties towards their respective centers of influence.”
“The J&K is witnessing a kind of uncertainty and an unwanted decay in its governance apparatus mainly because of the lobbyism of its senior civil service officers and the same is going unnoticed in the din of COVID-19 pandemic in Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement had said, adding that some officers who show their inclination towards Raj Bhawan are “unfortunately at loggerheads with their bureaucratic colleagues who toe the line of the highest office in the civil secretariat resulting into a growing gulf between people and the dispensation at the helms of affairs.”
Officials say Murmu would accuse the Chief Secretary of undermining his position and putting hurdles in running the affairs of the Union Territory. Murmu would also ridicule some officials for bad habits like backbiting and using senior bureaucrats against each other, sources say.
However, the failure of Murmu to engage with the mainstream political leaders has become one of the main reasons for his exit. “He was our point man in J&K but he failed to connect with the mainstream leaders and run administration smoothly,” a source tells Outlook.
Murmu could not create a conducive political atmosphere to engage with National Conference, Congress, and PDP leaders in Kashmir. His critics say he was never impressive as an L-G and had poor body language and was even poor in articulation. But his supporters say he would believe in giving some concessions and in Confidence Building Measures to set things right. “They were projected in a negative sense in Delhi.”
Recently, Murmu raised several eyebrows with his statements on the restoration of high-speed Internet in J&K and the timing of the election in the UT.
Murmu argued that he was “not worried about how people would use high-speed internet irrespective of what Pakistan would continue to do.”
He said Pakistan would continue its propaganda, “whether it is 2G or 4G.”
Later when the restoration of the Internet in Jammu and Kashmir case came up before the Supreme Court, the embarrassed central government submitted before the Supreme Court that it will verify the media reports of Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor suggesting the restoration of 4G internet in the Union Territory.
Also, the Election Commission reprimanded Murmu for his statements on election timing in the union territory. Murmu had said the elections to the J&K legislative assembly would be held after the delimitation exercise. He also said he did not see a problem in holding elections except the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was rare for the Election Commission to issue a public statement against another constitutional functionary.
Murmu has been replaced by senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh Manoj Sinha as per a midnight order issued by President Ramnath Kovind.
In the coming weeks, it will be seen how BJP’s senior leader, in a new and important avatar, deals with J&K’s powerful bureaucracy.