Srinagar: A raging controversy over his statement on 4G internet, rap by the Election Commission, and a call for curfew ahead of August 5 seemingly led to the recall of former Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu.
Murmu was appointed first Lieutenant Governor of newly carved Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in October 2019. Ten months after, he has now been replaced by BJP politician and former union minister from Uttar Pradesh, Manoj Sinha.
Murmu is tipped to take over as Comptroller and Auditor General replacing Rajiv Mehrishi who is superannuating this week.
A career bureaucrat, Murmu had off late courted major controversies by his free-wheeling opinion on contentious issues including restoration of 4G internet and holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
On July 26, Murmu told a national newspaper that the high-speed 4G internet will not create any problem.
“I feel that 4G will not be a problem. I am not afraid of how people will use this. Pakistan will do its propaganda, whether it is 2G or 4G. It will always be there… But I don’t see an issue,” Murmu told The Indian Express in an interview.
This was contrary to the central government’s stand on the issue. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court (SC) on July 21, Centre had said that a special committee set up to examine the demands for restoring 4G services, following the orders of the court on May 11, had met twice on May 15 and June 10 and decided that “no further relaxation of the restrictions on Internet services, including 4G services, would be carried out at present”.
After Murmu’s statement, Centre was so embarrassed that it had to tell the SC that it will verify media reports claiming that Lieutenant Governor advocated the restoration of 4G internet services.
If it was not enough, Murmu’s statement that elections in the Union territory could be held after the ongoing delimitation exercise evoked a sharp response from the Election Commission.
In a strong statement, the ECI said it would be proper for authorities other than Election Commission to refrain from making such statements which virtually tantamount to interfering with the Constitutional mandate of the Election Commission.
“Many things have to be taken into account for holding polls, including topography, weather, sensitivities arising out of regional and local festivities. In the constitutional scheme of things, only the commission can decide the timing of the polls,” the statement said.
Sources said the differences between Murmu and Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had created two power centers within the bureaucracy resulting in administrative inertia. There were reports that Murmu had transferred all officers said to be close to Chief Secretary. Plus, sources said, files were pending for long, and decisions were not implemented on the ground.
“All these things were factored in and it was decided that Murmu would be suitable for the post of CAG. Sinha being politician is being seen as a go-getter who could engage with the peeved mainstream leaders,” said an official.
Murmu, according to him, had off late begun to “say things that went beyond his brief.”
“The decision to enforce curfew ahead of August 5 was the last straw. It projected that the situation in Kashmir had hardly improved. The decision backfired badly forcing the administration to call off the curfew,” the official said.
He added that with his exit, the Centre has “in a way agreed that the approach adopted in Kashmir for the last one year hasn’t worked and they have to wipe off the blackboard and chalk out something new for the valley.”