BARELY A week after the BJP-led central government named Satya Pal Malik as the new Governor of J&K, replacing N N Vohra, the party has been left red-faced by its own state president over the appointment. Ravinder Raina, J&K BJP chief and Nowshera MLA, is purportedly heard saying in a video clip: “Vohra ko hum nahin laana chahte the… Woh apni dafli bajata tha… Abhi Governor aaya hai, woh hamara banda hai (We did not want to bring Vohra… He used to tomtom his own achievements… The Governor who has come now, he is our man).”
The 4.50-minute video was shot at the Dak Bungalow in Sunderbani Tuesday, and captures Raina making these remarks to an agitated group of college students demanding better facilities. The video shows that Raina was with BJP MP from Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha constituency, Jugal Kishore Sharma, at the time.
Party sources and local residents who were present on the occasion confirmed the contents of the video. However, when contacted, Raina said he had made the remarks during a meeting with leaders from other parties who wanted him to take up the issue of utilisation of MLAs’ Constituency Development Fund (CDF), and laying of foundation stones and inauguration of newly completed projects.
“It was in this context that I said, ‘Woh hamara Governor hai’. By saying so, I meant that he is the Governor of all people as he had restored CDF of MLAs and reversed the order of his predecessor restraining them from laying foundation stones of new works or inaugurating the completed ones,” Raina said.
Raina said the meeting he was referring to was attended by NC MLA Javed Rana, Congress MLA Choudhary Akram and BJP MLC Pradeep Sharma. Akram and Sharma were not available for comment but Rana told The Indian Express that the Governor’s appointment or role was not discussed during the meeting.
In an interview to The Indian Express, published on August 29, Governor Malik had said that among his “early initiatives” were a continuation of the release of funds under the MLA’s Local Area Development Scheme, which had apparently been stopped when the BJP Government broke its alliance with the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP alliance in June. “There had been resentment among the MLAs over this. They are entitled to this and yesterday I got this done,” Malik had said.
The video shows one of the students complaining: “There are 500-700 students in the college, which is being run from five rooms of the middle school… only we know how we attend the classes.” The students were referring to the delay in construction of the government degree college at Sunderbani, which is functioning from five rooms of the Boys Middle School. The college was sanctioned for Nowshera, Sunderbani and Kalakote tehsils of Rajouri district in 2011-12 by the then NC-Congress coalition government.
After Raina got elected as MLA from Nowshera for the first time in 2014, the proposed site was shifted to Thanda Pani Bhagla, 3 km from Sunderbani town towards Lamberi, the BJP leader’s village that is 14 km away.
The Congress’s chief spokesperson in J&K, Ravinder Sharma, described Raina’s statement as “unfortunate”. “It clearly indicates that the BJP was unhappy with the former Governor for his forthrightness and independent decision-making. The way BJP leader has referred to the former and present Governors is an insult to the institution.”