SRINAGAR: Two senior cabinet ministers left Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coalition red faced on Friday when they resigned from their positions moments after their former colleague was re-inducted in to the cabinet and another was rewarded with the most sought after portfolio.
This was the first cabinet expansion in ten months after Mehbooba Mufti took charge as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
In a dramatic turn of events, Syed Basharat Bukhari and Imran Raza Ansari, resigned from their cabinet posts after Syed Altaf Bukhari was re-inducted in to the cabinet and Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, directed reshuffle of portfolios under at least four ministers.
Although the duo PDP ministers confirmed their actions, however, no one was available for his comments as they had switched off their cell phones.
It all started Friday morning when stage was set for business tycoon turned politician, Altaf Bukharis oath ceremony in Raj Bhawan lawns in Jammu. Governor N N Vohra administered him oath and in the afternoon, chief minister issued orders of assigning portfolios while as a few ministries were reshuffled among three incumbent PDP ministers.
Bukhari was dropped by Mehbooba Mufti when she took oath of office in early 2016 after death of his father, apparently after developing differences with her. He had led Public Works Department (PWD) under late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed since March 2015.
An official spokesperson said that CM allotted education ministry to Altaf Bukhari which was led by Naeem Akhtar. Akhtar, who is mostly criticised for his more than two years stay in the government, was assigned charge of Public Works Department (PWD).
Mehbooba had allotted charge of PWD to Mufti confidant Abdul Rehman Veeri after assuming office, however, today, Veeri was shifted out and was asked to take charge of revenue, relief and rehabilitation, held by Basharat Bukhari till now.
Bukhari was instead allotted department of horticulture.
Saddened by his apparent demotion, Bukhari resigned in the evening. He did not assign any particular reason, however, directed media to approach CM. Mehbooba Mufti is the best person to explain why I left government, he told a local news gathering agency.
While all this was going on, another cabinet minister, Imran Raza Ansari, had already put in his papers around 4:30 PM. His phone was off when KO tried to reach him. While some reports said that he resigned citing his personal reasons, insiders say he was expecting change in portfolio as ‘promised’ earlier. Imran was holding charge of Sports and Youth Affairs.
Official spokesperson meanwhile said that CM relieved Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu, of the charge of Ministry of Culture. He added that CM will be herself looking after the department.
The resentment within PDP camp came to fore when party veteran and parliamentarian from Srinagar Tariq Hameed Karra revolted against party over its handling of 2016 summer unrest.
A party insider told the Kashmir Observer that there was resentment against party top brass particularly against Naeem Akhtar (an MLC) and has been virtually calling the shots in the party as well as in the government.
On Imran Ansari resigning from his post, the sources added, “it was a case of broken promises.” He claimed that Imran, had to be content with the insignificant Technical Education and Sports departments when he was inducted into ministry as he was promised ‘more important portfolio’ during next cabinet expansion.
However, political observers say that already under tremendous public pressure, PDP, was facing rebellion of sorts within as well.
This is the first major challenge to Mehbooba Mufti to hold her party together, a political observer told Kashmir Observer. She is already facing fire for joining hands with right wing BJP and then there is mayhem of 2016.”
The resentment inside the PDP was brewing ever since the formation of PDP-BJP coalition government in March 2015. And in 2016, the first casualty of the PDP was Tariq Hameed Karra who openly targeted his party for being partner in killing civilians. He resigned from his party and parliament during the peak of the civilian uprising.
After putting in to her fathers shoes, Ms Mufti punished Altaf Bukhari and he was shown door from the cabinet.
The PDP had left vacant two of its Cabinet berths in April last year, and there were indications that the party will induct senior members into the Cabinet any time but the cabinet expansion was delayed due to the five-month long unrest in the Valley.
Currently, PDP has 12 Ministers and BJP has 11 Ministers including, the Deputy Chief Minister and Sajjad Lone.
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