Ghulam Hassan Mir,the agriculture minister in Omar Abdullahs cabinet who has been named in an Army inquiry into the functioning of a secret intelligence unit set up by then Army Chief General V K Singh,has been a one-man political force in Kashmir for three decades.
The man who was a government school teacher in Tangmarg before studying law and joining the National Conference,is seen as a successful politician switching sides regularly and breaking bread with all parties to stay in power.
Nicknamed manager in political and security circles,Mir is known for his political manoeuvering and organising support or opposition at critical times. Sources say Mir was instrumental in organising counter-protests whenever the government needed to confront separatists. He also enjoys strong influence in security agencies.
In fact,in September 2010,when an all-party delegation that included the then home minister P Chidambaram and BJP leader Arun Jaitley decided to move out to meet people,they headed to Tangmarg where Mir had arranged for villagers to interact with them.
Mir was born in Hari Watnu village in Tangmarg and his father owned a small shop. When he was a teacher at a high school,Mir took unpaid leave to study law at Aligarh Muslim University. He returned in 1974,quit his teaching job and joined the National Conference.
He won his first assembly election in 1982 from Tangmarg. In 1984,when Prime minister Indira Gandhi helped split the ruling NC to topple the Farooq Abdullah government,Mir was among the 13 MLAs who formed the new government with Congress support.
But he went below the radar and did not engage in politics after militancy erupted in the valley. At the peak of militancy,he stayed at home without security,which sources say was because he had cordial relations with the militants in the area.
Mir fought the 1996 election as an independent and lost to NCs Mustafa Kamal. Although out of the Assembly,Mir kept himself relevant and is said to have helped the surrender of the top leadership of one of Kashmirs large militant groups.
In 1999,when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed formed the Peoples Democratic Party,Mir was a founding member. He won the 2002 Assembly election and was made urban development and tourism minister in the Mufti government.
However,he went on to develop serious differences with Mufti and was dropped from the ministry in 2005 when Ghulam Nabi Azad took over as CM. Mir left the party soon after. In 2008,he formed his own party,the J&K Democratic Party Nationalist and fielded candidates in more than a dozen constituencies. Although all of them lost,Mir won from Tangmarg and became a minister in Omar Abdullahs cabinet from the Congress quota.
The Army inquiry report said the secret intelligence unit gave Mir Rs 1.19 crore to engineer a change of government in the state. Mir refuted the claim.
I have always stood by the government. This is known to the people of J&K,the state government and the central government – I dont want to get into the details of this Army report. Why didnt anybody talk to me about it? I have always stood for the stability of the government. The question to do anything to destabilise the government is a far fetched idea, Mir told The Indian Express.