Jagmohan – A member of Sanjay Gandhi’s team that ended up being a saffron favorite | India News
Lives are full of twists and turns, but only a few represent the kind of change it marked JagmohanThe bureaucrat-turned-politician’s journey went from being a close crew member of Sanjay Gandhi, blamed for the excesses of Emergency, to becoming a saffron icon who, as governor of J&K, took the bold, albeit very Controversial, decision to dissolve the state assembly when the Pakistani-led insurgency had threatened to crush the government machinery.
It is also a story of the opportunities India offered post-independence to talented and ambitious young people who escaped the communal pogrom in what is now Pakistan to build their lives from scratch. Was born Jagmohan Malhotra In Hafizabad, Pakistan, the former Union minister started out as the “third personal assistant” to former Punjab CM, the legendary Partap Singh Kairon. His meticulous work caught the attention of his superiors and earned him a promotion to the Provincial Civil Service.
The elevation facilitated his move to Delhi, where, with his skill set, he caught the attention of Delhi’s first deputy governor AN Jha, whose patronage secured him key positions such as the housing commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority.
Jagmohan, with solid credentials as a “doer” who knew how to negotiate the notorious “bureaucracy” and bureaucratic lethargy to fulfill difficult tasks on time, served as vice president of the DDA during the Emergency when Sanjay Gandhi, son of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, possibly the most influential person during that infamous spell, decided to launch a beautification campaign in the Walled City. The effort was aimed at removing the slums near Turkman Gate so that the Jama Masjid could be seen from Connaught Place.
Only the residents refused to accept the idea. There was resistance and Sanjay responded by sending bulldozers. Many were killed in the shooting that followed. Although the censorship ensured that the accounts of what happened did not come out, the “massacre” of Turkman Gate, along with the forced sterilizations, became one of the defining issues of the 1977 elections, turning Muslims against Congress. and mainly contributing to its loss.
Jagmohan naturally found himself on the sidelines during the Janata Party regime and was indicted by the Shah’s Commission, which investigated judicial excesses.
But with Congress and Sanjay back at the helm in 1980, he returned to prominence, landing important assignments like LG from Delhi and Goa.
In 1984, he was rewarded with the post of governor of J&K, paving the way for a role that sparked a dramatic severance of ties with Congress, made him loved by BJP, and defined his legacy.
The five-year term that began in 1984 began on a stormy note with Jagmohan executing Indira Gandhi’s controversial plot to fire Farooq Abdullah as CM and replace him with his representative GM Shah. He defied the resistance of vested interests to drastically improve the facilities for the devotees of the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. He also saw him trying to motivate the administration and security forces to prepare for the growing threat from the Pakistan-backed insurgency.
But his first term was overshadowed by the second in which he served in the strategically crucial state, appointed by the Janata Dal government led by Vice President Singh in what was seen as a recognition of the steps he had taken against the rising tide of secessionist insurgency.
On a whim of fate, Jagmohan found himself on the receiving end of Congress under Rajiv Gandhi, who, by then, had reconciled with Farooq Abdullah. Amid escalating violence, targeted killings of Kashmir pandits, and resistance and criticism of the security forces’ response, the governor also had to grapple with George Fernandes, who had been appointed minister in charge of J&K.
The untenable situation came to an end with his dismissal, although BJP’s influence with VP Singh ensured that he was nominated for Rajya Sabha.
The growing affection of the BJP saw it compete in the 1996 elections with the candidacy of the New Delhi party. He handsomely defeated his rival in Congress, former superstar Rajesh Khanna, and retained the seat in 1998 and 1999. He served as Minister of Urban Development, Tourism and Culture. Although he did not enter the electoral arena after his defeat in 2004, he remained active and wrote ‘My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir’, a book that was praised by many as the first insider account of “subversion” at J&K. The book is also seen as having provided the Modi government with a way out to end J & K’s special status without having to repeal section 370 through a constitutional amendment.
A regular in the library of the International Center of India, Jagmohan remained committed to the affairs of Delhi, his first love, according to many. Vivek Shukla, a chronicler from contemporary Delhi, noted in his Facebook post that the DDA flats in Munirka designed under him were the best built by DDA.