Former union minister Manoj Sinha was appointed as the new Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Jammu & Kashmir, replacing former bureaucrat GC Murmu.
A seasoned politician from Uttar Pradesh, Sinha is a three-term Lok Sabha member and is known to be a grassroots politician. Let's take a look at his political history and the possible reasons for his appointment as J&K L-G.
Student Leader From BHU, And Modi's Close Aide
Sinha completed is B Tech and M Tech degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Benaras Hindu University campus (IIT-BHU). While in IIT-BHU, he was an exemplary student as well as heavily involved in student politics.
He later went on to become the president of the BHU Students' Union.
In 1989, Sinha was inducted into the National Council of the BJP.
Thereafter, in 1999, he was elected to the Lok Sabha on a BJP ticket from the Ghazipur constituency of Uttar Pradesh. He got re-elected from the same constituency in 1999 and 2014.
In his 2014 term, he was also appointed as the Minister of State for the Railways under the Modi government.
After a reshuffle of the Cabinet in 2016, he was also made Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Communications Ministry.
Sinha, however, lost his seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
A 2017 report by The New Indian Express describes Sinha as "an agriculturalist at heart and a silent performer who consciously maintains a low profile". The report also calls Sinha one of the "best performing members of Parliament in the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999”.
Political observers say that Sinha has always been Modi’s man, so much so, that he was the prime minister’s first choice for Uttar Pradesh chief minister, after the BJP secured a resounding victory in the state in the 2017 Assembly elections.
"We were told that Modi had hand-picked him for the job of the UP CM, because he wanted someone who could deliver better governance. But eventually he had to come to terms with the choice of the RSS and Hindu hardliners, who backed Yogi Adityanath", said political analyst, Sharat Pradhan.
Pradhan further says that Sinha was informed of the decision rather unceremoniously, and at the last minute.
"He (Sinha) was doing some pooja at the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, which he thought was an auspicious pooja before he took over as chief minister. At 5 pm in the evening, he was asked to go back to Delhi, and we saw that Adityanath had managed to push his way", Pradhan said.
"That was one occasion when Modi had to take a step back", he adds.
A 'Political Face' To Reign In J&K
His closeness to Modi, however, is being seen as one of the prime reasons for Sinha's appointment as J&K L-G.
"The decision to put him in Kashmir is quite significant, because it seems that Modi himself has now decided to take charge of Jammu and Kashmir, rather than leaving it to the Home Ministry and Amit Shah. Sinha will have a direct hotline to Modi. He will not have to go past anyone else", says analyst Arati Jerath.
The second reason for his appointment is that the BJP needs to have some sort of political outreach in the area.
“J&K for decades has been run by bureaucrats or former army men. The BJP experimented with Satyapal Malik but had to eventually remove him because they could not downgrade him after statehood was taken away and he had to be made Lieutenant Governor from Governor. They therefore, had to replace him with Murmu, but the experience with him was not great. That’s why they now want a politician to handle outreach”, said Jerath.
She also points out that in Jammu, the local BJP is having problems with the central leadership after abrogation of Article 370, especially on the issue of land rights, since land in J&K can now be purchased by anybody, as opposed to just residents of the state earlier.
"The Jammu BJP has protested against this and has sent delegations to meet Amit Shah. A person like Manoj Sinha would be useful for them to do this outreach to the local BJP in Jammu", she adds.
Sharat Pradhan also adds that Sinha has a the image of an able, educated administrator, and not that of an aggressive Hindutva leader like many in the BJP.
"You need somebody who has a good understanding of the system. And Sinha fits well into that bracket. He's rated as a good guy in governance. He was holding two big portfolios in Delhi and handled them without a blemish. The Railway bureaucracy also tells me that he's one of the better ministers they've seen over the years. Therefore, he is seen as someone who will do well in a position of governance", Pradhan said.
Incidentally, Sinha's appointment comes exactly a year after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked under Article 370, and the process to bifurcate the state into two UTs (J&K and Ladakh) was kick-started.
(With inputs from The New Indian Express)
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