The Jammu and Kashmir administration will soon initiate direct dialogue with the people to end the situation of uncertainty and the menace of terrorism, the union territory’s new lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha said on Friday soon after being sworn in.
The 61-year-old, who was administered the oath of office by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal at a simple function in the Raj Bhavan, also said he wants to accelerate development in the union territory, carved out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir last year.
“August 5 is a very important day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. After years of isolation, Jammu and Kashmir joined the national mainstream. I have been told that many works which could not be completed in years have been completed in the past one year,” Sinha told reporters after taking oath.
“I want to accelerate that development,” he added.
On August 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was revoked and the state bifurcated into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Outlining his priorities, Sinha pitched for peace and stability and said the powers of the Constitution will be used for the betterment of the people and the development of Jammu and Kashmir.
We need to establish a dialogue with the common people of Jammu and Kashmir.
We don’t have any agenda in that. There will be no discrimination against anyone. Constitution will be Gita in that,” he said.
Manoj Sinha said the process of direct dialogue with the people will start in a few days.
“There should be peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation of uncertainty should end, terrorism should end. Achieving all this along with accelerated development will be our aim, our mission,” the lieutenant governor said.
Less than 150 people were invited for the swearing-in ceremony. Social distancing norms were observed with all invitees seated away from each other and everyone wearing masks in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sinha and the chief justice briefly took off their masks for the oath-taking.
Manoj Sinha succeeds former IAS officer Girish Chandra Murmu, who resigned on Wednesday night and was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Thursday.
The National Conference stayed away from the ceremony for which both Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were invited.
The National Conference has said the process of democracy should begin by releasing their detained leaders as well as former chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.
“On August 5, we were not allowed to meet. Two days later, we are asked to participate in the oath taking ceremony,” an NC leader said.
Advisors to the previous lieutenant governor, including Farooq Khan and Baseer Khan, as well as senior bureaucrats and policemen were present at the function in the Raj Bhavan, at the foothills of the Zaberwan range.
Rajya Sabha member Nazir Ahmed Laway, BJP Lok Sabha member Jugal Kishore Sharma and Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party leader Ghulam Hasan Mir were also present.
Sharma, who is known for his connect with people, particularly in rural areas, will have to tackle several pressing issues. He will have to work towards ending factionalism within the bureaucracy in the union territory, with some senior IAS officers recently found to be publicly indulging in verbal spats.
He will also have to focus his attention on the state intelligence department, which has of late failed to anticipate events. In the last three days, a panchayat member and a sarpanch have been attacked in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district in two separate incidents.
Known in some circles as ‘vikas purush’ (development man), Sinha is a three-time Lok Sabha MP who was minister of state for communication in 2016 when the telecom industry was engaged in the sale of spectrum. He was elected to the lower house for the first time in 1996 and then in 1999 and 2014. However, he lost the election from Ghazipur in 2019.
A B.Tech in civil engineering from the Institute of Technology (now known as IIT-BHU), Sinha has been credited with overcoming the menace of call dropping by holding widespread consultations with telecom operators.
Manoj Sinha, an agriculturist, is the first politician to be nominated LG of the union territory.
The Centre had earlier appointed Satya Pal Malik, a politician, as governor of the erstwhile state.
Manoj Sinha was a frontrunner for the post of Uttar Pradesh chief minister after the party walked away with 265 seats in the 403-member assembly in 2017.
Born in Mohanpura in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, he began his political career after being elected president of the Banaras Hindu University Students Union in 1982.