Controversy’s child who ‘means’ his words
A Jat from Hisawada village in Baghpat in Western UP, who has played his card as a farmers’ crusader well, he has now raised the Pulwama bogey.
He “means” his words, is how the former governor of Jammu & Kashmir and more recently of Meghalaya, Satya Pal Malik is described by those who know him. Known for courting controversy and switching political parties, he is the only governor till date, who has remained relatively ‘unscathed’ despite his no-holds-barred criticism of the BJP-led NDA government on its policies.
From the now-repealed farm laws for which Malik had accused Modi for being “arrogant” to the Agnipath scheme to the latest accusation on the Pulwama attack, Malik has vociferously and selectively attacked the Central government and Modi in particular.
The CBI had registered two FIRs after Malik, as the then J&K governor, had claimed that he was offered Rs 300 crore to clear two files during his tenure – one, regarding awarding a contract of J&K Employees Health Care Insurance Scheme to a private firm about the release of Rs 60 crore in 2017-18, and, two, regarding a civil works, contract worth Rs 2,200 crore for Kiru Hydro Electric Power Project, which was given to a private firm in 2019 allegedly in violation of the rules.
Speaking in Rajasthan, Malik announced that he had rejected the offer (of bribe). He said he had “come with five kurta-pyjamas and will go with them only.” Malik has now been summoned for questioning by the CBI in the insurance case.
Malik was the J&K Governor between August 2018 and October 2019. On 5 August 2019, the Central government revoked the special constitutional status of the erstwhile state of J&K under Article 370 and abrogated Article 35A, which had allowed it to define who its “permanent residents” are and what rights and privileges are attached to such residency. In November 2019, Malik was made governor of Goa, which he felt was a demotion, and had famously said that he had a “hangover” of Kashmir. He had accused Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant of corruption during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In August 2020, he was shifted to Shillong as governor of Meghalaya from where he had attacked the Centre on its now-repealed farm laws and Agnipath, which he said was playing “fraud” with the aspirations of future jawans. He had asked the government to “reconsider” the new scheme.
During his tenure as Maghalaya Governor, he was served a legal notice by PDP chief and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti after he had alleged that she was a beneficiary of the now-abandoned Roshni scheme, which aimed to grant proprietary rights to occupants of state land for charges. Malik’s tenure as Meghalaya Governor ended in October last year.
He had said that once his tenure as governor ends, he will tour the country and unite the farmers to change the regime in New Delhi and form a government, which is favourable to them. Some khaps in Haryana and Punjab have voiced their support to Malik after his recent interview though ground reports from Western UP, from where he hails, do not confirm that he has much agency with farmers, who see in his ‘crusades,’ a strong political motive.
Those who know him well say that Malik’s interview was “well timed”. He wants to disown the BJP and bring the opposition parties together. As J&K Governor he would have liked to take credit for the abrogation of Article 370 but that didn’t happen so he turned the narrative after he was sent to Goa, said people who know Malik.
A Jat from Hisawada village in Baghpat in Western UP, who has played his card as a farmers’ crusader well, he has now raised the Pulwama bogey. Jats comprise the majority of recruits in the Army and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).
“Pulwama is a deeply raw and emotional issue. Malik could have criticized the BJP or the PM, but his comments on the Pulwama attack can be a problem for the government. Interestingly, in his opposition to the Centre he has refrained from attacking Home Minister Amit Shah,” they added.
Malik started his political career in 1965-66, inspired by the Socialist ideology of Ram Manohar Lohia and served as the president of Meerut College Students’ Union between 1966 and 67. In 1974, he was first elected as UP MLA on Chaudhary Charan Singh’s Bhartiya Kranti Dal ticket from the Baghpat assembly constituency.
In 1980, he was named to the Rajya Sabha by the Charan Singh-led Lok Dal. Singh’s son late Ajit Singh saw in Malik a rival, especially after the latter started priding himself as a crusader of farmers. In 1984, Malik switched over to the Congress, was elected to the Rajya Sabha and was appointed as the general secretary of the UPCC. He was a close friend of the late Arun Nehru.
In 1987, he quit the party over the Bofors scandal and formed Jan Morcha, which was merged with the Janata Dal in 1988. He, along with former PM V P Singh, addressed public meetings across the country and joined the Jan-Jagran between 1987 and 91. After the collapse of Janata Dal, Malik joined the BJP in 2004 and was appointed the vice president of the party’s UP unit.
In 2009 he was appointed as the all-India in-charge, Kissan Morcha of the BJP and in 2012, he became the national vice-president of BJP, when Nitin Gadkari was the party president. He was reconfirmed in the same post when Modi took over as the PM. Malik started his gubernatorial stint at the Raj Bhavan in Patna, between September 2017 and August 2018, before moving to Srinagar.
Meghalaya was his fifth if one is to consider the brief charge he held as governor of Odisha in 2018. Malik, 76, lives in a rented house in Delhi with his wife Iqbal. His ‘Z-plus’ security has been downgraded to a personal security officer – one ‘sipahi’ to protect the self-proclaimed “fakir.”