Srinagar: The foremost regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of newly-appointed Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, which took place in Srinagar Friday.
Members of both Houses of Parliament representing J&K told ThePrint that although they were invited to attend the ceremony at Raj Bhavan, they chose not to go.
However, Rajya Sabha MP Nazir Laway, who was expelled from the PDP for attending the swearing-in ceremony of previous L-G G.C. Murmu in November last year, was present for this one too.
Anantnag MP and senior NC leader Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd) termed the ceremony “insignificant” and told ThePrint that a “change in policy towards Kashmir” was more important than a “change of face”.
Baramulla MP Akbar Lone, also of the NC, said his party had not accepted the central government’s decision to scrap the special status of J&K on 5 August 2019, and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories, so there was no point in attending the ceremony.
Bigwigs in attendance
There were nearly 200 attendees at the Raj Bhavan as J&K High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal administered the oath to the new L-G.
Senior BJP leaders in attendance at the ceremony included Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh (the MP from Udhampur in the Jammu region), former J&K deputy CMs in the PDP-BJP coalition government, Kavinder Gupta and Nirmal Singh, J&K BJP general secretary Ashok Koul and Jammu MP Jugal Kishore.
Ghulam Hasan Mir and Rafi Mir of the recently formed Apni Party, senior Army and paramilitary officials, civil servants and police officers were also present, according to a government official. Journalists weren’t invited to the event, with the exception of a few wire services and the state-run Doordarshan.
Speaking to the news agencies, Sinha said 5 August 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,” he said, adding that he wanted to accelerate development and establish a dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We don’t have any agenda in that. There will be no discrimination against anyone. The Constitution will be the (Bhagavad) Gita in that,” he said.
The politicians who attended the ceremony spoke glowingly of the new L-G.
The BJP, expectedly, welcomed Sinha, with its J&K unit general secretary Koul saying “his political expertise will help and be of great use to Jammu and Kashmir”.
The two representatives of the J&K Apni Party, founded by former PDP leader and state cabinet minister Altaf Bukhari, also praised Sinha’s track record.
Asked what he expected from the new L-G, Ghulam Hasan Mir said: “It is too early to comment; we will wait for him to function. But it goes without saying that Mr Sinha has proven to be an able administrator, minister and parliamentarian who knows the pulse of the people.”
Expelled PDP Rajya Sabha MP Laway added: “Mr Sinha is a noble soul and I am optimistic about the future of J&K.”
However, another PDP Rajya Sabha MP, Fayaz Mir, claimed he only came to know about the invitation at 11 am when he was at his home in Kupwara. “It goes without saying that I would have still not attended the event,” he said.
(An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina attended the ceremony. The error is regretted)