Maharashtra governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and CAG Rajiv Mehrishi tipped to be N.N. Vohra’s succcessors.
New Delhi: Jammu & Kashmir may have a new governor later this month, when incumbent N.N. Vohra exits office after a 10-year term, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav confirmed in an exclusive interview with ThePrint.
“The tenure of the governor gets over in a couple of weeks. The government can think about the future, take what steps it thinks are best. I assume there will be a new governor soon,” Madhav said.
Rumours about a new governor in Jammu & Kashmir have been around for some time now. Although the J&K assembly has been in suspended animation since the BJP pulled out of the coalition government in late June, speculation has been rife that the party wants to break away members from its former alliance partner, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and form the state government.
Names of Maharashtra governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, a committed activist of the RSS for several decades, and Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) and former home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi are being touted as possible successors to Vohra.
Sources said there had been differences of opinion between Vohra and the BJP leadership, especially around the restoration of the assembly and Article 35A, which outlines the special privileges residents of Jammu & Kashmir are entitled to.
“Right now we prefer to continue governor’s rule in J&K. We are in favour of continuing the state of suspended animation of the assembly. But we will have to see how politics happens,” said Madhav.
“What if the National Conference and Congress and PDP come together? They have the numbers… But we are in favour of continuing governor’s rule, and after that, perhaps, President’s rule for another six months,” he added.
In the 87-member J&K assembly, the PDP is currently the single-largest party with 28 MLAs, followed by the BJP (25), the National Conference (15) and the Congress (12).
Madhav, the BJP’s pointperson for Kashmir, was in Srinagar last week to persuade the PDP to support the NDA’s candidate in the election for the post of deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha. In the end, the PDP refused to support the NDA candidate, but abstained from voting. This lowered the threshold for victory, helping Harivansh Narayan Singh win handsomely.
The NRC row
In a wide-ranging interview, the senior BJP leader, credited with his party’s successful push in the northeast, also spoke about the controversy over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, from which 40 lakh people have been left out.
Madhav said the 40 lakh people had nothing to fear because there would be several opportunities to prove their citizenship bonafides. He added that India had assured Bangladesh that identifying “illegal migrants” who may have settled in India over the years was a long process, and that their deportation was a long way off.
“Our leadership is in touch with the Bangladeshi side. Before we reach that stage of deportation, we have to cross many bridges. The Bangladesh government understands,” he added.
Madhav denied reports that BJP president Amit Shah had labeled the 40 lakh people “ghuspethiye” or infiltrators on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. He only said these people had not been able to prove their citizenship, Madhav added.
“Ghuspethiyon ko koi desh tolerate nahin karta hai, that’s what Amit Shahji said, no country tolerates infiltrators. But we have so much sympathy for infiltrators,” he said.
He pointed out that there were 15 kinds of identity documents that can be offered to prove citizenship, and that all those left out of the NRC had a few months to do so. Even if they were left out of the NRC after that and declared foreigners, they would have the opportunity to approach the Foreigners Tribunal. And if their claims were not validated even there, they could go to the high court, he added.
“A final draft was released a few days ago, but this is only a draft. We are not saying these 40 lakh people are illegal infiltrators…We are not denying any legitimate citizen his right to stay in this country. No single legitimate citizen will be left out,” he said.
Asked about reports that alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was unhappy about the manner in which the exercise was being undertaken, Madhav said the case was, in fact, the opposite.
“The AGP is insisting that more infiltrators have become citizens. Some leaders in Assam are unhappy that this very figure (40 lakh) is an understatement,” he added.
“Having said this, I am saying the process by the Registrar General along with the Supreme Court is very transparent, very scientific. Not a single genuine citizen of the country will be left out,” Madhav said.
He also confirmed that the process to identify 40,000 illegal Rohingya refugees from Myanmar was underway across the country, and that they would be deported to Myanmar once the exercise is complete.
“The process of identification has started, once that process is over, future steps will be contemplated. They will be sent to Myanmar, they are from there,” he said.
As for the Citizenship Bill for minorities that is currently before Parliament, Madhav said the law was meant only for the minorities being discriminated against in “erstwhile Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
This will be limited to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, he said. He denied allegations that this would effectively mean no Muslims from the countries will be given citizenship in India, and that this was a reiteration of the two-nation theory.
“We have a responsibility if these minorities are being persecuted…This Hindu-Muslim discourse is a very displaced discourse. The cut-off is 1951 to seek citizenship, except for Assam, which is 1971… For minorities, however, the cut-off has been extended to 2015,” he added.