From the face of Amarnath land row to a minister in the Narendra Modi government, Dr Jitendra Singh has come a long way to become the leading voice against Article 370, which grants a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Singh, a diabetologist, who took premature retirement from the Government Medical College, Jammu to join politics, had a meteoric rise in the BJP. A first-time MP, Singh became the giant killer when he
defeated Congress stalwart and former Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad from Udhampur Parliamentary constituency this month.
Incidentally, Singh's brother, Devendra Singh Rana, is the other side of the political fence in Jammu and Kashmir. Rana is currently the provincial president of National Conference for Jammu and one of the closest aides of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Singh shot to fame in 2008 when he became the spokesman of Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Simiti (SASS), which spearheaded the two month agitation in Jammu for restoration of forest land to the Shri
Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).
"Even when he was a doctor, he used to write articles in newspapers. Therefore he became the spokesman of the Board. He used to address press conferences and participate in discussions in TV debates," said Leela Karan Sharma, former convenor of SASB.
The 2008 Amarnath land agitation had polarised Jammu and Kashmir on religious and regional lines with people in both Jammu and the Kashmir valley launching agitations for and against the transfer of 39.88 hectares of forest land to the Board.
The Kashmir valley erupted in protests after the then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad transferred the land to the Board. After pressure, Azad withdrew the cabinet order. But it triggered a chain reaction in Jammu with people launching a counter-agitation to restore the land to the Board.
After two months of deadlock, the government managed to cool the tempers after it "set aside the land for the exclusive use by the Board". Azad had to resign from the government as the PDP pulled out over the transfer of land to the Board.
It was during his stint in SASB that Singh was baptised in active politics. He took premature retirement as professor of Endocrinology at Government Medical College Jammu to join the BJP. However, Singh's stint in SASB came to haunt him later in 2011 when the US denied him a visa, thus becoming the only other leader after Modi to have been refused entry into the US. Singh was to travel to Washington as a member of an eight-member BJP delegation to attend an interactive meet organised by International Republican Institute and the Republican Party in June 2011.
Born on November 6, 1956, Singh wears several hats; he is an author, doctor, columnist and a politician. The award-winning author of five books, Singh has been writing popular columns in different newspapers in Jammu for years.
An alumnus of Stanley Medical College, Chennai, Singh is one of the best diabetologist who has carved a niche in and outside Jammu and Kashmir. "It is matter of pride that an intelligent man like Jitendra Singh has been given an important position at the Centre, which will help boost the development scenario of J&K," said Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, senior BJP leader from Kashmir.
Though his remark over Article 370 has triggered a storm, his party leaders in J&K are standing behind him. "Article 370 is in our manifesto. I think Omar sahib has lost his way when he says if Article 370 goes, then the state will secede from India," said Hari Om, an advisor to the BJP state president.