In the hot seat but 'kept out of loop'
New Delhi: When national security adviser Ajit Doval visited BJP president Amit Shah's bungalow on Tuesday morning, Union home minister Rajnath Singh was sitting in his first-floor office in North Block.
Moments after the BJP announced its decision to pull out of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the home minister left his office and went to his official residence, two senior home ministry officials said, adding that they felt Rajnath had so far been unaware of the impending decision.
The two officials are among others in the home ministry who told The Telegraph that neither Rajnath nor the government's interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, appeared to have known about the decision to dump Mehbooba Mufti.
When the BJP's Jammu and Kashmir minder Ram Madhav announced the pullout, senior ministry officials said they were taken aback. "Forget about us, it seems even Rajnathji was not in the loop," an official said.
Contacted after the BJP's decision to pull out, Sharma, the interlocutor, said: "I'm in Srinagar and have just learnt about it. I do not want to comment."
Such was the resentment within the home ministry that one official went to the extent of saying: "Rajnath Singh is the official second-in-command in the government, but only on paper."
The officials said Rajnath was perhaps the lone member in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah dispensation taking a nuanced, if not divergent, stand on multiple issues.
They cited how Rajnath had pushed for the extension of the unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir but the Prime Minister decided to end it on Sunday following opposition from Doval and army chief Bipin Rawat. Sharma too was keen on a ceasefire extension.
"It has to be seen now how Sharma does his job as there is no government in the state," an official said.
Government sources said the emergence of Doval as a power centre in the Prime Minister's Office has virtually clipped Rajnath's wings. The national security adviser is learnt to be taking all the key decisions on internal security and Kashmir.
"The NSA is PM Modi's eyes and ears in the home ministry," an official said.
Around 4.30pm on Tuesday, Rajnath held a meeting at his Akbar Road residence with home secretary Rajiv Gauba, IB chief Rajiv Jain and special secretary in the home ministry Rina Mitra on the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Doval too was present.
Rajnath also spoke to Jammu and Kashmir governor N.N. Vohra.
Officials in the security establishment said the Centre was planning to launch an all-out operation against militants in Kashmir.
"The governor's rule in the state will ensure zero political interference in offensive operations. It is now clear that the government wants to go full steam ahead on its Hindutva and nationalism agenda before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections," a source said.
An official spokesperson said in Srinagar that after consultations with political parties, governor Vohra had forwarded his report.
The spokesperson said the governor had asked Mehbooba to continue in office till alternative arrangements were made.
Unlike other states, Jammu and Kashmir has to be placed under governor's rule for six months under Section 192 of the state constitution before President's rule can be imposed. Other states come under President's rule under Article 356 in the event of the failure of the constitutional machinery.
"The Union home ministry will forward the governor's report to the President who will send it to the Union cabinet. It will be processed by the cabinet and a decision will be taken," a home ministry official said.
An Update: June 23, 2018
Ministry says report is false; The Telegraph stands by its report
• Sir - This has reference to the news item titled "In the hot seat but 'kept out of loop'" published in your newspaper dated 20.6.18.
The news item read "Moments after the BJP announced its decision to pull out of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the home minister left his office and went to his official residence, two senior home ministry officials said, adding that they felt Rajnath had so far been unaware of the impending decision. The two officials are among others in the home ministry who told The Telegraph that neither Rajnath nor the government's interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, appeared to have known about the decision to dump Mehbooba Mufti. When the BJP's Jammu and Kashmir minder Ram Madhav announced the pullout, senior ministry officials said they were taken aback. "Forget about us, it seems even Rajnathji was not in the loop," an official said."
The Ministry of Home Affairs has taken a serious note of the above mentioned news, which is completely false and motivated. It is fictitious, based on falsehood and malicious.
The correspondent in a bid to sell his story has written fiction and tried to pass it off as journalism.
To justify his imagination, the correspondent produced quotes attributed to the Ministry of Home Affairs officials, who do not exist in reality.
The intention behind publishing such false news appears to mislead the readers with an intention to create wrong impression in their minds about the functioning of the Ministry of Home Affairs and cause damage to the reputation of the Ministry and the Honourable Home Minister.
Publication of such completely, false and baseless news does not behove of a prestigious newspaper like "The Telegraph".
It is expected that a newspaper like "The Telegraph" would have a system in place to check the veracity of stories written by correspondents rigorously before they get published because media carries the onerous responsibility of informing the people accurately about various events, especially in which senior dignitaries of Government of India were involved.
It is expected that your esteemed newspaper will publish, by giving equal prominence, this rejoinder by the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the readers are informed of the correct position.
A. Bharat Bhushan Babu,
ADG (Media & Communication)
• The Telegraph report was based on conversations with officials of the ministry. The newspaper published the report only after corroborating the version with multiple officials who, contacted again on Friday, iterated the account. The Telegraph stands by the report. Editor