BJP Leader Manoj Sinha Replaces Murmu in J&K, Fourth LG in Two Years

The Modi government is unable to settle on a candidate who can run the Union Territory in the continuing absence of an elected government.

New Delhi: Former Union minister and senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh Manoj Sinha was on Thursday appointed Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, the Rashtrapati Bhawan spokesman said, replacing Girish Chandra Murmu, who was named to the crucial post leas than a year ago.

Murmu is expected to be named as the next comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India when the term of the present incumbent, Rajiv Mehrishi, ends on August 7.

Sinha will be the fourth LG of Jammu and Kashmir in two years, with the Modi government clearly unable to settle on a candidate who can run the Union Territory (which was a state till August 6, 2019) as the representative of the Centre.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been without a democratically elected government since June 2018, when the Bharatiya Janata Party ended its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party.

A communique issued by the president’s secretariat said that the resignation of Murmu as LG has been accepted. Murmu’s resignation came exactly one year after the Narendra Modi government moved to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The LG at the time was Satyapal Singh.

The communique, issued by the president’s press secretary Ajay Kumar, said “the President has been pleased to appoint Shri Manoj Sinha, to be the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office” in place of Murmu.

As LG, Murmu’s term was marked by the continuation of the severe repression unleashed in J&K, and especially the Kashmir valley, right after August 5, 2019. Murmu’s administration clamped down hard on political freedom – imprisoning former chief ministers under the draconian Public Safety Act and scores of other leaders and activists under some form of preventive detention – and also interfered with press freedom. Murmu’s most enduring legacy will be the continuous blockade of high speed internet which still remains in place even though, in an interview last month, he conceded that it was time for 4G services to be restored.

Sinha, who is 61, was born in Mohanpura of Ghazipur district of eastern UP and has been active in the state of Uttar Pradesh as a BJP politician.

His political career started when he was elected the president of Banaras Hindu University Students Union in 1982. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1996 and then again in 1999.

Sinha was a member of the BJP national council from 1989 to 1996. He was elected to the lower house for a third term when his party swept the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Appointed minister of state for railways and later minister of state with independent charge of the Ministry of Communication, he lost the Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat in 2019 to the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate.

Murmu to be next CAG?

Murmu, a 1985-batch Gujarat cadre officer, worked with Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. After the BJP won the 2014 general elections, Murmu officer joined the Union finance ministry. He was appointed as the Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on 31 October, when the erstwhile state became a Union Territory after the August 5 move to dilute Articles 370 and 35A.

First Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Girish Chandra Murmu. Photo: PTI

According to the Hindustan Times, there is “speculation” that Mumru could be appointed as the next Comptroller and Auditor General. The incumbent CAG’s term will complete on Friday (August 7).

The CAG is the Union of India’s too accounting watchdog, responsible for auditing government expenditure and programmes. Though the CAG plays a crucial role in the Indian constitutional scheme in ensuring financial accountability of the executive, the decision of whom to select for the post is entirely in the government’s hands.