New Delhi: The Centre has appointed Girish Chandra Murmu and R.K. Mathur as the new lieutenant governors of the two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, that are slated to come into existence on October 31.
A 1985-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, Murmu is currently serving as the expenditure secretary in the Union finance ministry. Mathur, a 1977-batch officer, is a former chief information commissioner (CIC) who has also held the position of the Union defence secretary.
A Rashtrapati Bhawan communique said that the current governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik has been transferred to Goa.
Murmu, who belongs to Mayurbhanj, Odisha, was seen as a trusted aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah during their stint in Gujarat. Murmu was the principal secretary in the chief minister’s office when Modi helmed the state government in Gujarat.
Soon after Modi came to the Centre, he called Murmu to New Delhi to join the Union finance ministry as a joint secretary in the important expenditure department. He was a part of the trusted close-knit team that assisted the prime minister in taking crucial decisions. He was supposed to retire on November 30.
In an article in 2018, Business Standard said that Murmu “played a key role in advising him (Modi) and Shah at critical junctures in their political careers.”
One of his Gujarat colleagues told the daily that Murmu had an “enviable command over legal strategy” and oversaw their litigations in the alleged Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. He said that Murmu is liked by the two leaders because of his ability to “get things done”.
“In 2013, he was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the alleged fake encounter case involving the killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others who were said to be accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate Modi,” the newspaper reported.
An expose that year by Tehelka magazine showed an audio recording in which Murmu, along with senior law officer Kamal Trivedi and the then-junior home minister at the Centre, Praful Patel, allegedly discussed ways to cover up the alleged fake encounter. The audio recordings are now a part of the CBI’s chargesheet in the said case.
Murmu also allegedly helped Amit Shah dodge the Snoopgate controversy, in which the current Union home minister was accused of putting a woman under state surveillance.
Murmu is seen as an accessible, down-to-earth officer for whom “no task is hard”, according to some of his colleagues who spoke to Business Standard.
His command over legal strategies is the reason he has been given the all-important position in Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been in a state of lockdown for over two months; resentment against the Centre is high. The lockdown has grabbed eyeballs internationally, with civil liberties activists and agencies actively following the events in the state.
Murmu’s strength in devising legal strategies may come in handy for the Centre in such a situation.
Similarly, 1977-batch Tripura cadre IAS officer, Mathur, as the new LG of Ladakh, has a lot of experience when it comes to handling sensitive matters. He retired in 2019 as the CIC and had held multiple important positions during his career as a bureaucrat.
Apart from holding the position of Tripura’s chief secretary, he served as the principal secretaries of finance, agriculture and rural development before becoming the defence secretary. He also served as the private secretary to the ministers of external affairs and information and broadcasting.
Both Murmu and Mathur will now have the sensitive task of handling the process of reorganisation of the two union territories. With their appointments, the Centre has also officially ended the interlocution in Kashmir. It transferred Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma and appointed him as the new administrator of Lakshadweep.