Governor Malik's faux pas

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/11/2018 3:04:57 PM

An interview aimed at bailing out government ends up being totally unconvincing

A bad interviewer does not make Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik assertions about the fairness of local bodies polls, future prospects and eulogisation of prime minister Narendra Modi any convincing. In an interview to a para-trooped journalist from a news television channel the governor tried to counter every allegation against his government and the BJP but only ended up exposing his government and raising more questions. It may have been an unintended faux pas, but the Governor let the cat out of the bag when he proclaimed that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation would soon have a new Mayor in the face of a foreign educated young man. Such prophecies while the elections are going on can only be made if the results are already pre-determined before the polling has been fully conducted. Such remarks pulled out of an interview which was at best a PR exercise were jarring enough to be noticed even with a blink. But there was much that Governor Malik said that demands explanations. In his profuse praise for Modi, he spoke about the concrete policies he was employing in Kashmir without elaborating on what these were and how these were impacting change on the ground. Skirting details, he simply spoke about the Rs 80,000 crores economic package announced by Modi in 2015. Facts, however, deflate the balloon of the rosy picture being painted with the impressive statistics. In March last, a parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs found that out of the Rs 80,068-crore Prime Minister's Development Package for Jammu and Kashmir, projects worth Rs only 67,046 crore had been sanctioned and only Rs 17,913 crore have been released to the state government, according to the report. The committee also noted that very little outcome was achieved in most of the projects - including that for creation of jobs, transit accommodations, one-time settlement of 36,384 families from Pakistan Administered Kashmir and raising of new battalions. Besides, the economic package remains more a jugglery of figures which promises little benefits to the common masses. A major component of this package for national highways was already approved by the previous UPA government and pegged at Rs 34,000 crores. Rest of the projects pertained to the Indian Railways and power the benefits of which do not accrue solely to the state. While fiscal announcements don't really end up being beneficial for people, details of what they contain and how these are implemented are crucial, which the Governor conveniently did not talk about, nor was unfortunately asked about.
Another major contention of the Governor that insurgency in Kashmir is the making of Congress regimes does not explain for the recent revival of militancy post 2014 and the massive anger of the public that brings the latter in open confrontation with fully armed soldiers on the streets and more frighteningly at the encounter sites. Needless to point out that the rabid right-wing politics of the RSS, Jana Sangh and BJP pushed Congress regimes in the past to commit Himalayan blunders while dealing with Kashmir. He contention that National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party used frivolous pretext for boycotting polls even as he took a stand that an elected government should decide on Article 35 A is untenable. Only after the two parties boycotted the elections, did he change his stand from decision on "Article 35 A after panchayat polls" to "Article 35A after elected government." If he spoke about the significance of local bodies polls in beginning development works, what then explains the sudden fall of the elected state government in June and imposition of Governor's rule? His outright rejection of secrecy about candidates in fray is in absolute contrast with the remarks of union minister Jitendra Singh the same day. Malik's professed claims of understanding youth through the lens of hundred odd are outrageous. Feedback from a handful of people is no substitute for referendum or popular view, a slight indication of which is revealed by the phenomenon of low polling in the elections. Was Malik engaging in bluff or sleight of hand in quoting the polling figures of Kashmir division at 18 percent (possibly misleading with the inclusion of Kargil) by early afternoon when later in the day it came down to 8 percent in the Valley later in the day. That the interview ended up being a brazen PR exercise is itself a betrayal of the sticky wicket the BJP government and its appointed Governor are standing on with respect to the farcical process of ongoing elections.

 

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