Days before the formal reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir into a separate Union territory along with Ladakh on October 31, the Centre moved governor Satya Pal Malik to Goa.
Expenditure secretary Girish Chandra Murmu, a 1985 batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre, was named LG of the UT of J&K, retired 1977 batch bureaucrat Radha Krishna Mathur, a former chief information commissioner, will take over as LG of Ladakh.
Malik replaces Mridula Sinha, who was sworn in as Goa governor on August 31, 2014. Sinha was also appointed as a brand ambassador of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During her five years, Sinha threw open the doors of Raj Bhavan, a Portuguese era building, to visitors early this year, created awareness about cleanliness and set up a cow shed inside the Raj Bhavan some years ago.
Sinha’s stint has not been without controversies. In 2017, Sinha had invited the BJP to form government after the assembly polls, despite Congress emerging as the single largest party that drew criticism from different quarters in Goa.
Sinha, who was the chancellor of Goa University, has also courted controversy by asking students to take oath that they would not walk out of their marriage.
Malik’s stint saw the decision to do away with J&K’s special status and the reorganisation of the state, which was followed by 70-odd days of complete mobile and internet lockdown that has only been partially lifted.
Malik’s appointment, given his socialist background, was watched with interest and the governor attracted attention for his free-wheeling comments that could be scathing of separatists and regular politicians and at times seemed to exceed his brief as governor of a sensitive state.
Only two days ago, he had commented that the position of governor was that of a weak person who “cannot hold a press conference or talk his heart out”.
“I keep worrying for three days if someone in Delhi got angry with me after my lecture,” Malik was quoted as saying while addressing the convocation ceremony of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University in Katra, Reasi.
Murmu had served as principal secretary to Modi during his stint as the chief minister of Gujarat. His background in the finance ministry is expected to come in handy as the Centre rolls out schemes and incentives aimed at welfare of people in J&K and as assets and resources are divided between the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
Mathur, who belonged to Tripura cadre, was chief information commissioner between January 2016 and November 2018, after having retired as defence secretary in May 2013.
In another appointment, BJP leader P S Sreedharan Pillai was named governor of Mizoram and long-serving J&K interlocutor and former Intelligence Bureau chief Dinesh Sharma was named administrator of Lakshadweep.
Malik served as J&K governor during the crucial time between August 2018, when the state was under governor’s rule following the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti government, and now.
He had the distinction of presiding over a series of important events starting with dissolution of the J&K assembly, governor’s rule followed by President’s rule which has been extended twice since, panchayat polls and, most significantly, implementation of the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and preparing the ground for bifurcation of the state.
The outgoing governor, with the help of five advisors from different backgrounds, is seen to have successfully managed a difficult situation in J&K. The tense atmosphere created by tight restrictions imposed in all of J&K after August 5 – particularly detention of top leaders, curbs on people’s movement and communication shutdown – was deftly handled under his leadership and the governor made it a point to state that not a single bullet was fired by police in regular law and order situations.
Notwithstanding his tendency to make controversial statements, often followed by clarifications, Malik did serve his purpose well – he facilitated difficult decisions and ensured law and order and security situation in J&K did not worsen to the point it had done after the killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani in 2016.
He oversaw efforts to restore normal life in the state, particularly the Valley, including lifting of curbs on movement, restoration of landlines and mobile communication and proper management of apple trade in the ongoing harvest season.