Drabu, Nayeem, Altaf, Imran and Sajad Lone in Mufti cabinet
JAMMU: People’s Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took oath as the chief minister of a PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday in the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium here.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minster Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, former BJP president L. K. Advani and some union ministers. This is the second time the 79 year old Mufti would be heading a government in the state. Earlier he had headed the PDP-Congress government in 2002 for three years, before he was replaced by Gh.Nabi Azad till 2008.
The ceremony was held after the two-month-long negotiations over formation of a coalition government.
Alongwith Mufti a 25-member cabinet with members from the PDP and the BJP also took oath. While Mufti would be chief minister for the entire six-year tenure, BJP’s Nirmal Singh will be the deputy chief minister.
Among others who took oath as cabinet ministers are Abdul Rehman Veeri, Haseeb Drabu, Nayeem Akhtar, Basharat Bukhari, Javid Mustafa Mir, Ghulam Nabi Lone, Abdul Haq Khan, Imran Ansari (all PDP), Lal Singh, Chander Prakash, Sukhnandan Chowdhury and Bali Bhagat (BJP).
Priya Sethi (BJP) and Aasiya Naqash (PDP) were the two women legislators taking oath as ministers. Lal Singh, who switched sides from Congress to the BJP just before the elections, took oath in Dogri language.
The cabinet saw entry of Sajad Gani Lone who was sworn-in as the cabinet minister from the BJP quota. After the swearing-in, he received a tight-hug from the Prime Minister and Chief Minster.
PDP legislator Haseeb Drabu, who was the chief negotiator from the party in formulating a Common Minimum Programme (CMP), was welcomed by the Prime Minister with all hugs and smiles for making the alliance possible.
Mufti was keen on an alliance with the BJP after last years assembly elections threw up a hung verdict. He made his intentions known by rejecting outright the unconditional offers of support from the Congress and the National Conference (NC).
The swearing-in was boycotted by National Conference. Sources maintained that NC working president and former Chief Minster Omar Abdullah was annoyed for not getting a personal invitation from Mufti Syeed.
Muftis close aides say he had a bitter past experience with the Congress and an alliance with the NC was out of question. The former J-K chief minister who has the distinction of being the first and till now the only Muslim home minister of India wanted an alliance with the BJP given that the saffron party had swept the Jammu region, winning 25 seats while majority of his partys 28 seats came from the Kashmir Valley.
Regarding Sajad Gani Lone, Mufti said that he (Lone) has opened gates for other leaders also.
Soon after taking oath, Mufti said that engaging Hurriyat Conference in dialogue process was the part of the CMP. Pakistan, Hurriyat and militants allowed conducive atmosphere for assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Sayeed said at a press conference that was held to unveil the coalition agenda the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). We want to make the alliance a turning point in history to win the hearts and minds of all people of the state, he said. “Army will be made accountable for its actions,” Sayeed added when asked about AFSPA.
The PDP-BJP coalition came after a fractured verdict in the assembly polls held last year. While PDP was the largest party with 28 seats in the 87-member House, the BJP had won 25. The NC bagged 15 and Congress 12. The Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference won 2 seats.
The firming of a power sharing alliance between two diametrically opposite ideologies – Sayeed called the alliance as coming together of North Pole and South Pole – was a tough task for leaders of both the parties.
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