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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » Is Satya Pal Malik Itching For A Fight?

Is Satya Pal Malik Itching For A Fight?

By Aditi Phadnis
November 09, 2021 08:05 IST
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Malik believes he can solve the problems of farmers and is sending signals to the government to give him a chance, reports Aditi Phadnis

IMAGE: Satya Pal Malik, then Jammu and Kashmir governor, with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi on August 27, 2018. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Satya Pal Malik, governor of Meghalaya, has been in the news lately. Actually, he has never been out of the news.

Even his adversaries describe him as smart and intelligent -- but with a tendency to overreach.

Malik's career began in student politics when he was elected president of the Meerut University students union in the early 1970s.

Anti-Congress movements were just beginning to show and consolidate, and Chaudhary Charan Singh (a great institution builder no matter what anyone might say) was always on the lookout for young men who could take the political movement with its roots in western Uttar Pradesh forward.

Malik caught his eye for his oratory and intelligence: He belonged to a small village, Hisawada near Baraut in western UP, the hub of Jat politics. Though his Jat sub-caste Malik was numerically insignificant, he caught Charan Singh's fancy and was given a ticket to contest the 1974 UP assembly election as a candidate of the Bharatiya Kranti Dal.

He served a five-year term but later crossed over to the Congress. When Rajiv Gandhi came to power, he assiduously worked and developed proximity to Arun Nehru, who looked after him through thick and thin.

This paid off: In 1986, he became a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha (Nehru told other aspirants to the position that the seat was not available -- it had been promised to Malik. Nehru ignored puzzled expressions, much scratching of the head and exclamations of 'Malik who?').

Soon the air began reverberating with slogans of 'gali gali mein shor hai, Rajiv Gandhi chor hai'. V P Singh quit the Congress to form the Jan Morcha and later the Janata Dal. Ram Dhan, a symbol of Lohia politics, was by his side. Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammed Khan followed him out of the Congress. And a step behind, one of the last to join, was Satya Pal Malik.

In 1989, Malik fought and won the Aligarh Lok Sabha seat. He was made minister of state for tourism -- again, at Arun Nehru's behest. From then until now, Malik enjoys unique privileges at Delhi's Hotel Claridges -- where he could be spotted frequently with his supporters until he became governor.

In 2004, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and much against the advice of well-wishers, he contested the Baghpat Lok Sabha seat. This time, Charan Singh wasn't there to help him. To say he lost the election to his mentor's son Ajit Singh is putting it mildly: He lost his deposit.

In those days, the BJP was still on a losing streak and celebrated those who had fought the good fight, even if they'd lost. He stayed on in the party through the presidentship of L K Advani and Rajnath Singh. Then his fortunes got a slight fillip during Nitin Gadkari's tenure as party president. He chose the right side in 2014: He sided with Narendra Modi.

Malik was appointed governor of Bihar in 2017 and then chosen from a short-list of five for the complicated job of governor, J&K, much before the government wrote down Article 370. Relations between the BJP and the PDP led to the dissolution of the assembly.

For a while, Malik was lord of all he surveyed. Until statements made by him led to his transfer to sunnier climes. He was made governor of Goa. Differences with the chief minister led to another transfer -- this time to Meghalaya.

A word about his various gubernatorial tenures.

In Bihar as governor, Malik claimed Rajiv Gandhi was a 'good and honest' person and other Congress leaders were allegedly involved in the Bofors deal case. As bureaucrats and politicians alike concur that among them was one of Malik's gurus, it does make you wonder about his gods.

Soon, he was moved to J&K, presumably because the BJP felt a person perceived as 'neutral' (he is, after all, a Lohia-ite) could calm things down in the then state. Much later Malik was to observe that J&K governors don't have much to do and 'generally drink and play golf'.

In Goa, Malik riled the elected government headed by a chief minister who was battling his own demons, having only then stepped into the large shoes of Manohar Parrikar. In Meghalaya, Malik's contribution was ceremonial.

The fact is, he has left his heart in western UP. He believes he can solve the problems of farmers and is sending signals to the government to give him a chance.

For that to happen, the government has to divest him of his current job. That could still happen.


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Aditi Phadnis in New Delhi
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