In an interview, the Governor Satya Pal Malik has made noises of the kind that are certain to inspire confidence in his administration. Malik was candid enough to acknowledge that New Delhi has made mistakes in Kashmir which has alienated people. He was sympathetic towards Article 35A saying even Himachal Pradesh and North East had similar laws and there was nothing that was wrong with it. Reassuringly enough, Malik also said that his position on Articles 370 and 35A had been endorsed by the Centre. I am not an elected representative but my stand is that arguments on 35A should be deferred until there is an elected government in power, Malik said. And significantly, the Governor made it clear that he wont encourage a government formation resulting from defection.
The statements like these are re-assuring and are certain to calm the nerves in Kashmir and also help build faith in the new Governor. Also, the statements have come as a pleasant surprise, considering Maliks 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. The state was also in throes of the rumours of the efforts being made to form a new coalition government between a possible breakaway faction of the PDP and the BJP. Now Malik, like his predecessor N N Vohra, has expressed himself against such an exercise.
It is clear that much of Malik’s credibility will depend upon how he handles these two issues. Or to put it correctly, how the centre would like him to respond to them. On his part, soon after his appointment, Malik has talked of winning the confidence of the people and addressing imbalances among the three regions of the state. One thing that is viewed positively is that he is the first politician Governor the state has ever got. Malik has earlier been with Congress, Samajwadi Party, Lok Dal and has worked with the former Prime Minister VP Singh. This gives him a vast political experience. People expected the new Governor to offer some reassurance as to the fate of Article 35A. And that he was unwilling to offer it so far had adversely affected the public confidence in him that he looked forward to build.
However, Maliks challenge doesn’t stop with his handling of the issues related to the state subject law and the possible new government formation. The situation in Kashmir will be likely of a critical significance for the BJP in the run up to general election next year. So the party will be keen to see the situation in the state normalize or managed in a way that will be electorally most beneficial for it. And Malik will be expected to make it happen on the ground. Here is hoping that from hereon he doesnt do anything that hurts the trust in him.
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