The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Race for J&K Governor hots up

New Delhi, April 5: With Girish Chandra Saxena set to complete his term as Jammu and Kashmir Governor on May 2, speculation about his successor has begun.

Since chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has definite views about what he is looking for in a Governor and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is also certain about the kind of person who should be the Centre’s “eyes and ears”, the two may soon be on a collision course.

Mufti is certain about what he does not want. He does not want as Governor any former army general or former chiefs of Intelligence Bureau or the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) — the Centre’s usual favourites for the job.

Eager to soothe the frayed nerves of his people caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces, Mufti is keen to have a man with a political vision to replace Saxena.

His choice is former Kashmir chief secretary R.K. Takkar, a personal friend and bridge partner. Takkar is more likely to be willing to accommodate the state administration’s views than someone sent by Advani.

The chief minister wants a political Governor who will not see Kashmir as a mere law and order problem.

The Centre, on the other hand, thinks that in a state where the administration is seen as “soft” on militants, it would be suicidal to have a “soft” Governor, though “with a vision”.

The frontrunner at the moment is Delhi’s lieutenant Governor Vijay Kapoor, believed to be close to Advani. Several officials in the home ministry said the chief minister has no problems with Kapoor as he was chief secretary in Kashmir during Mufti’s stint as Union home minister.

But a Mufti aide contradicted this view and said while the chief minister knows Kapoor personally, ally Congress might not agree to have him as Governor. When Kapoor was sent to Kashmir as chief secretary, the Congress had staged a dharna saying he was close to the BJP. The party has not changed its views on Kapoor.

Besides, elections are due in Delhi in November and the lieutenant governor is unlikely to be changed at a time when the BJP is going all out to oust the Sheila Dikshit government. It is possible that Saxena will be allowed to continue till the end of the year, when it will be convenient to move Kapoor to Srinagar.

The dark horse is A.S. Dulat, the former RAW chief who has been dealing with Kashmir in the PMO.

Both the Prime Minister and his deputy are likely to hold consultations and come to a consensus on the choice of Governor. So far, the meeting has not taken place. Perhaps the two-day BJP executive in Indore will give them a chance to talk about the issue.

The Centre’s pointsman for Kashmir, N.N. Vohra, will go to the state on April 20 for talks with elected representatives of the people as well as separatists.

Indications are that Vohra will not go out of his way to woo the Hurriyat. The Centre’s line on the Hurriyat has hardened considerably after its refusal to take part in last year’s Assembly elections.

“No special efforts will be made to get the Hurriyat leaders to talk to Vohra. The doors are open to all to come and give their views to him,” a senior official said.

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