The new Governor Satya Pal Malik has started off well. In one of his first interviews, he has made some candid admissions: he said he had not come to the state with any political agenda and that resolving Kashmir was not his domain. He said he will limit his role to providing a better governance and a political outreach towards the people. He also said he will let the elected representatives to carry out their official role, including even inaugurating the government projects. And something that should go to his credit also, the state government under him pleaded for the adjournment of the hearing on the Article 35A in Supreme Court and got a favourable response. The hearing has now been deferred to January 2019. This has certainly come as a breather to the state. People have now time to rest easy albeit there is little reason not to worry and the Governor has time to concentrate on the governance. Here is wishing Malik the success in arguably his most challenging assignment so far.
And while going about his job, it would be important to bear in mind its fateful historical import. Unlike other states of India, Governors rival Chief Ministers in the distinctness of their role in the affairs of J&K. So much so, that in political discourse they are often seen as much responsible for messing up the situation as the politicians. And validly so. Governors have been direct participants in the history of the state, helping shape and direct it during their respective periods of rule. And this is why Maliks appointment has made the Valley curious and apprehensive of what might be in store. More so, when Malik has replaced N N Vohra who has been the Governor for two successive terms and has largely enjoyed the confidence of the people both as a ceremonial head as well as the ruler of the state.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Vohra has not run into a political controversy. Will new Governor be able to live up to Vohra’s reputation? Only time will tell. But apprehensions run deep in Valley. And there are several reasons for it. One of the most obvious is that the appointment has been made by the BJP-led central government whose ideologically rooted stance on the state has made the Valley inherently distrustful of its actions in the state. Malik’s appointment also comes in the backdrop of a tense situation developing in the state over the legal challenge to Article 35A in Supreme Court. The intermittent hearings of the case trigger a spate of protests and shutdowns in the state. And any tinkering with the constitutional provision that forbids people from other parts of the country from settling in J&K can push the state headlong into a fresh turmoil.
On his part, Malik has talked of winning the confidence of the people and addressing imbalances among the three regions of the state. But this would entail a tightrope walk and in the first few weeks his every action and move will be closely watched as to what he is up to. One thing that is viewed positively is that he is the first politician Governor the state has ever got. And one hopes that he does fulfil the expectations that one can only have from a politician: that is, not only provide good governance but also respond to the political situation if not the problem.