Mufti meets Modi, invites Vajpayee, Advani, Azad for swearing in
PDP chief wants Sajjad out; KPs lobbying for representation in Cabinet
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 27: With the preparations underway for installation of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir on March 1st , Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Friday held an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he called on senior BJP and Congress leaders and invited them for the swearing in ceremony.
Accompanied by his junior party colleague and MLA Haseeb Drabu, Mufti arrived in Prime Minister’s Race Course residence minutes before the scheduled meeting of 9.30 a.m. Modi received Mufti with a warm hug. The meeting was historic as the top leaders of the diametrically opposite political ideologies had never met in the last many years, even after Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014.
The meeting gathered tremendous media attraction as the two parties had stirred regional and communal passions in Kashmir and Jammu respectively particularly during the 2008 street agitations over allotment of State land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and in the recent Assembly elections when PDP called for massive participation of voters in Kashmir “to keep the BJP away from power”.
While the PDP leaders had continuously ruled out power sharing with the BJP, holding Modi and Amit Shah responsible for “massacre of Muslims” in the Gujarat riots of 2001, Prime Minister had made scathing attacks on PDP, called it “baap beti ki party” and held it, along side NC, responsible for corruption and misgovernance in his Kashmir campaigning rally in Srinagar in November 2014.
Modi and Mufti, sources said, held an “informal discussion” on the general political scenario. Sources close to Mufti told Authint Mail that none of the issues encapsulated in the “Agenda For Alliance” were discussed in the meeting as all the contentious matters had been amicably resolved in an overnight meeting between Mufti and the BJP President Amit Shah.
Mufti, accompanied by Drabu, later drove to the residences of the senior BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and the senior Congress and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Ghulam Nabi Azad. He apprised them of the formation of the PDP-BJP coalition government and also invited them to the swearing in ceremony being held on Sunday at Gen. Zorawar Singh Auditorium of the University of Jammu.
By an Air India flight on Saturday forenoon, Mufti is scheduled to return to Jammu where PDP Legislature Party would formally elect him leader before sending a letter to Governor N.N. Vohra, staking claim on formation of the government with the support of 25 BJP MLAs and an associate member Pawan Gupta, the independent MLA from Udhampur.
PDP’s MPs including President Mehbooba Mufti, who is staying with her father at J&K House Chanakyapuri, Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hamid Karra are expected to accompany the would-be Chief Minister from New Delhi to Jammu.
BJP sends letter of support to Governor
In a related development BJP MLAs’ 4-member delegation, led by State General Secretary and MLA Gandhi Nagar Kavinder Gupta, called on Governor Vohra and passed on to him a formal letter of support to the PDP in the matter of formation of the new coalition government. MLAs Sat Paul Sharma, Daleep Singh Parihar and Abdul Gani Kohli were also in the delegation.
An SPG team, led by an IGP, arrived in Jammu and sealed the University premises while making inspection of different spots and putting in place necessary security arrangements for the PM’s visit in coordination with the State authorities. Sources said that the security drill would be complete by Saturday afternoon and no unauthorised movement would be allowed around the venue of the swearing-in ceremony.
Sajjad Lone’s induction blocked by PDP?
Some well-placed political sources disclosed to Authint Mail that BJP’s key coalition partner, PDP had “serious reservations” with regard to the BJP’s suggestion of inducting the Peoples Conference chairman and MLA Handwara Sajjad Gani Lone as a Minister in the Cabinet. These sources said that an uncertainty was prevailing over Lone’s induction though the picture would become clear by Saturday afternoon. Lone had stuck his neck out publicly supporting the BJP and meeting with Prime Minister Modi before the Assembly elections of 2014. His party bagged two seats of Handwara and Kupwara in tough contests with National Conference and PDP.
All the PDP leaders approached by Authint Mail maintained that they could not speak to media on any issue as the party had authorised only its chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar. He was not reachable on phone. Off the record, two of the PDP leaders however confirmed that the BJP’s letter of support did not carry an attachment of support from the PC.
Someone responded to a call on Lone’s phone but insisted that the PC Chairman could not take the call for he was “busy”. Sources close to Lone confirmed that both the party’s MLAs were still in Srinagar and neither of them had been invited or told anything about Lone’s induction in the Cabinet. A senior BJP leader clarified that none of the MLAs and Ministerial contenders in his party too had received any such communication till late this evening.
Lobbying intensifies as KPs seek representation
According to informed sources, neither PDP nor BJP top brass had given out any inkling of the composition of the Mufti Cabinet. Highly placed sources in BJP said that the State General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Kaul had already submitted a list of over one dozen names to the party high command. They said that BJP’s Parliamentary Board would take a meeting, most likely to be presided over by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi on Saturday and finalise the list before passing it on to Mufti and Raj Bhawan in Jammu. National Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal would also attend the meeting.
Sources said that the final decision regarding Lone and Pawan Gupta could be taken in the same meeting. Groups of Kashmiri Pandits, sources said, had intensified their lobbying for the displaced community’s representation in the Cabinet. Senior BJP activist Moti Kaul besides the Panun Kashmir supremo Ashwani Chrangu and Surender Ambardar are understood to have been favoured by different quarters.
In PDP too, some of the leaders were reportedly projecting the names of the senior BJP leader and New Delhi-based surgical oncologist Dr Samir Kaul and eminent academician and head of India-Australia Institute Prof. Amitabh Mattoo. “Mufti Sahab is holding everything to his chest. Nobody knows who he would pick up for his Council of Ministers”, a senior PDP leader said. Prof. Mattoo did not respond to phone calls.