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Saturday, February 28, 2015

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.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Mufti, 12 Cabinet Ministers being sworn in on Sunday

Tie between Basharat Bukhari, Bali Bhagat on Speaker’s chair

Hinna Bhat, Nayeema Mehjoor being nominated as MLAs

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Feb 26: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s 13-member Cabinet would take the oath of office and secrecy at Jammu University’s Zorawar Singh Auditorium at 11.00 a.m. on Sunday---in two days of the Peoples Democratic Party patron’s much hyped meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Jammu and Kashmir would witness a flurry of political and bureaucratic activity Friday through Sunday as the coalition allies PDP and BJP would be formally electing Mufti and Dr Nirmal Singh respectively as their leaders in Legislature and two women----PDP’s Nayeema Mehjoor and BJP’s Dr Hinna Bhat---would be nominated as MLAs on Sunday to enable them vote for the coalition candidates in the election on six vacancies of Legislative Council on Monday.

A team of senior SPG officials headed by an IGP is arriving in the State’s winter capital on Friday exactly when Mufti would be holding a high profile meeting with the Prime Minister in New Delhi. Highly placed security officials said that the SPG team would visit the venue of the swearing-in ceremony at the Jammu University and take a review of the security arrangements related to the PM’s visit. That makes it clear that Mr Modi would be the chief guest at Mufti’s oath-taking event even as an official confirmation from the PMO was still awaited. However, highly placed bureaucratic sources in New Delhi revealed to Authint Mail that Mr Modi alongwith Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh and all others Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members would attend the ceremony on March 1.

On Friday afternoon or latest by Saturday, PDP and BJP legislature committees would meet separately in Jammu and complete the formality of electing Mufti and Dr Nirmal Singh respectively as their leaders in the 89-member House. This would pave the way for Mufti’s oath taking as Chief Minister. Dr Singh, however, would take oath as a Minister in the Cabinet and later designated as ‘Deputy Chief Minister’ as that position does not exist in Jammu and Kashmir Constitution.


Highly placed sources revealed to Authint Mail that the PDP team of the Cabinet Ministers would include chief spokesperson and MLC Naeem Akhtar Andrabi, MLA Rajpora and former Chairman of J&K Bank Haseeb Drabu, MLA Bijbehara Abdul Rehman Veeri, MLA Lolab Abdul Haq Khan, MLA Amirakadal Syed Altaf Bukhari and MLA Darhal Choudhary Zulfikar. In case the coalition partners agree on oath taking of seven or eight ministers of either side on Sunday, which was under consideration till late on Thursday, PDP’s MLA of Pattan and young Shia leader Imran Raza Ansari and MLA Chadoura Javed Mustafa Mir could also be sworn in on March 1.

Sources said that one among MLA Hazratbal Asea Naqash and MLA Sonwar Mohammad Ashraf Mir, one among MLA Noorabad Abdul Majeed Paddar and MLA Pulwama Mohammad Khalil Bandh, besides MLA from Zanskar Syed Mohammad Baqir Rizvi, would be inducted as Ministers of State in the PDP quota subsequently.

In the PDP team, Altaf Bukhari, Haseeb Drabu and Imran Ansari are the debutant MLAs while as Abdul Haq Khan, Javed Mustafa Mir, Abdul Rehman Veeri and Choudhary Zulfikar have been PDP’s MLAs in the past for one or more terms. Mr Veeri has served as Minister of State for Home and Javed Mustafa as MoS Power in the 2002-2008 PDP-Congress government when Mufti and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad functioned as Chief Ministers by rotation.


Sources said that PDP’s second-time MLA from Sangrama Syed Basharat Bukhari and BJP’s MLA from Raipur-Domana Bali Bhagat were the top contenders for the post of Speaker of Legislative Assembly. In case Bukhari for PDP gets Speakership, the coveted post of Chairman Legislative Council would go to the BJP. However, if PDP prefers Chairman’s post between the two, Mufti’s brother-in-law and former two-time MLA of Devsar Mohammad Sartaj Madani, who lost to Congress party’s Mohammad Amin Bhat in the third election in 2014, could be one among the four nominated MLCs of PDP quota and obviously the new Chairman of Upper House. Madni has also served as Deputy Speaker in Assembly. In the event of this settlement, BJP’s Bali Bhagat, who was MLA from Ramban in 1996-2002, could be the new Speaker.


According to these sources, BBC’s and Akashvani’s former broadcaster Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, who has joined PDP last year, and dental surgeon-turned-BJP activist Dr Hinna Bhat, who lost to PDP’s Altaf Bukhari in Amirakadal in recent Assembly elections, would be recommended by Chief Minister as nominated MLAs and Governor N.N. Vohra would issue a notification on Sunday afternoon. This would enable the two nominated MLAs to cast their vote in favour of the ruling coalition candidates in the Legislative Council election on four seats in Jammu and two seats in Kashmir divisions being held on March 2.

Induction of Ms Mehjoor and Ms Bhat would take the number of the coalition members and their allies to 59. While as the PDP-BJP combine could clearly bag three of the four Jammu seats, Opposition National Conference-Congress alliance candidate Sajjad Kichloo is tipped to win the fourth seat with the advantage of 27 to 30 members.

In the only crucial contest on the two Kashmir seats, PDP’s Saifuddin Bhat is likely to get 30 ‘First Preference’ votes of the ruling coalition. In case, NC-Congress succeeds to get 30 seats---including those of CPM’s Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, PDF’s Hakeem Yasin and independent MLA Engineer Rashid---like in the recent Rajya Sabha election when Ghulam Nabi Azad was elected, NC’s Qaisar Jamsheed Lone would be the winner on the second seat. However, if the ruling coalition got the two women activists nominated as MLAs and also engineers abstention of Rashid or Hakeem, there could be a tie between the ruling coalition’s Mirchal and NC’s Jamsheed Lone which would be broken by draw of lots. But if both Rashid and Hakeem abstain, both the seats would be bagged by the PDP.


While as Dr Nirmal Singh, a retired professor of Jammu University, is tipped to be the Deputy Chief Minister, others being inducted into the Cabinet include former State Health Minister Lal Singh, MLA of Gandhi Nagar Kavinder Gupta, MLA of Kishtwar Sunil Kumar Sharma, MLA of Suchetgarh Choudhary Sham Lal besides Pawan Gupta, a BJP rebel who contested and won as an independent candidate in Udhampur.

Peoples Conference chairman and MLA of Handwara Sajjad Gani Lone is also tipped to be inducted as a Cabinet Minister in the BJP quota. One of the senior BJP leaders said that his party would get an additional Cabinet berth in case the Speaker’s chair would be conceded to PDP even as almost everything was being shared on “fifty fifty basis".


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PDP-BJP 'alliance' runs into rough weather over delimitation issue

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

JAMMU -- Even as all the "crucial issues" have been resolved between the People's Democratic Party and the BJP, the latter's insistence on fresh delimitation of the assembly constituencies in Jammu has emerged as a major hiccup over government formation in the region.

Highly placed sources in New Delhi disclosed to Authint Mail on Monday that the PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed could be sworn in as chief minister on March 1 but the issue of fresh delimitation in Jammu, which has been strongly pursued by the BJP high command, had yet again cast the clouds of uncertainty over the new coalition.

The BJP high command, according to sources, was strongly insisting on what it calls "rationalisation" of the assembly segments. While referring to the population size in Kashmir and Jammu divisions, the BJP has pointed out to the PDP that the previous delimitation, which added 11 seats to the 76-member House in 1995-96, was "remarkably disproportionate".

In the 87-member assembly after 1996, Kashmir valley of 10 districts and almost the same number of voters as in Jammu has 46 segments. Jammu division with 10 districts has only 37 seats. All the Jammu-based parties, particularly BJP and Bhim Singh's National Panthers Party, have been demanding fresh delimitation and increase of nine segments.

During the current talks, the BJP leaders have pointed out that in over a dozen segments in Jammu division, the number of voters was between hundred thousand and hundred fifty thousand.

On the contrary, source said, the BJP leaders have pointed out that only a few segments in Kashmir had over one lakh voters.

Some segments like Sangrama, Gurez and Karnah have just 13,000 or 30,000 voters as compared to over hundred fifty thousand in three segments of Jammu district," a BJP leader said.

On the pattern of a freeze of the Lok Sabha constituencies till 2026, the J&K legislature had put an embargo on delimitation of assembly segments for an equal period during the National Conference-Congress government headed by Omar Abdullah.

The BJP, according to the sources, wants to unfreeze it with the collaboration of PDP.

However, Mufti is understood to have communicated to the BJP that the PDP would "in no circumstances" collaborate in increasing of the proposed nine seats in Jammu as it could be exploited not only by his mainstream competitor National Conference but also the separatist opposition.

Nevertheless, source said, the PDP is inclined to proportional increase of eight seats, four each in Kashmir and Jammu divisions. "We cannot give up on our claim of rotational chief ministership for nothing. Rationally, the BJP must get some vital dividends if it surrenders on the claim of giving the state its first chief minister from Jammu", said a senior BJP leader.

He pointed out that the number of the seats in the state assembly won by the BJP and its allies is 28, just one short of the PDP. He said a fresh hiccup had surfaced which was being resolved.

About the portfolio distribution, a BJP leader claimed that PDP had agreed to give the key portfolios of Planning & Development as well as Finance to the BJP.

Two of the senior PDP leaders, believed to be privy to the talks with BJP, confirmed that "fresh hiccup" has delayed constitution of the new government.

He said that today's scheduled meeting of the PDP team - Mehbooba Mufti, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Haseeb Drabu - with the BJP President Amit Shah did not materialise.

"This delimitation issue could be one of the reasons, though the BJP chief was preoccupied with a heavy schedule on the first day of the parliament session".


A source in the BJP's state insisted that all the critical issues had been resolved and the new cabinet of 12 ministers - six each from BJP and PDP - could be sworn in on March 1. They said that 12 more ministers from the two parties could be sworn in subsequently.

According to the source, BJP's Dr Nirmal Singh, Kavinder Gupta, Sukhnandan Chowdhary, Lal Singh, Bali Bhagat, Ravinder Raina and Abdul Gani Kohli had been shortlisted while as PDP could be represented by Naeem Akhtar, Altaf Bukhari, Haseeb Drabu, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Abdul Haq Khan, one among Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura and Javed Mustafa Mir besides Aesia Naqash, Imran Raza Ansari, Choudhary Zulfikar, Anayat Ali and Vikramadatya.