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Sunday, June 3, 2012

PDP leader roped in to resolve CVC appointment crisis

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 2: A middle rung leader of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is being roped in to resolve crisis between the ruling coalition and the principal opposition party over appointment of the outgoing Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, as the first presiding officer of Jammu & Kashmir State Vigilance Commission. The intermediary, having low profile in politics but high profile in business, is trying hard to deflate the balloon of criticism against Mr Khoda but has not achieved any success in the last three days.

Well placed political sources said that two middle rung leaders of the PDP had been, of late, roped in with the crucial task of conflict resolution over Mr Khoda’s appointment as Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). One of the intermediaries, according to sources, was holding an important position in the party but was more prominent on account of his flourishing business in horticulture sector. Another was described as a young legislator from Baramulla district. Even as the duo, according to sources, attempted their crisis management task on behalf of the outgoing DGP, it was not immediately clear whether it was the contender’s personal initiative or the State government’s covert operation to protect its prestige on Mr Khoda’s appointment. The high profile businessman-politician was reportedly trying to mobilize support in Mr Khoda’s favour while roping in some legislators and top brass of his party.

Sources said that the two middle-aged politicians, both from Baramulla district, drove all the way to the PDP patriarch Mufti Mohammad Syeed’s residence and pleaded that blocking Mr Khoda’s appointment would not be an act of prudence for the opposition. Inspite of a slew of reservations, Mufti is understood to have, in turn, spoken to his daughter and the party President, Mehbooba Mufti. However, Ms Mufti argued that preserving the credibility of the institutions like SCV, State Accountability Commission (SAC) and State Information Commission (SIC) was more important for the principal opposition party than obliging individuals and favourites of the government. According to sources, she asserted that even a minute flexibility in the PDP’s stated position on this subject could enormously harm interests of the party.

Mufti Sayeed, according to sources, did not press what the two middle rung leaders of the party had desired directly and indirectly.

Sources attributed ‘delay’ in General Administration Department’s letter to Raj Bhawan to the latest conflict resolution process, suggesting that the stakeholder was “desperately trying” to clear the decks for the CVC’s appointment. While as Secretary GAD, Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, did not respond to phone calls, Principal Secretary to Governor, Naveen Choudhary, maintained that no such communication had passed through his desk till this evening. As already reported in media, albeit without denial or confirmation from the Government, minutes of the May 28th meeting of the high power search committee had been recorded and got signed by GAD from all the three Government members---Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, and Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar---as well as the only member from opposition, Mehbooba Mufti.

After her strong objection to Mr Khoda’s name and nominating retired IAS officer, Samuel Varghese, and retired IPS officer, Dr Ashok Bhan, as the suitable candidates, Ms Mufti has reportedly recorded her dissent with detail in the draft of the minutes. This document is supposed to be forwarded to Governor, with detailed rejoinder of the Government members, for issuing warrant of appointment under law. On recommendations of the high power search committee, the competent authority can appoint CVC as well as the Vigilance Commissioners, not more than two. Three of the Government members are reported to have unanimously recommended Mr Khoda as the CVC besides two retired officers (former Financial Commissioner RK Jerath and former Commissioner Secretary GAD, Mohammad Sayeed Khan) as Vigilance Commissioners.

Sources in Department of Law said that Governor had the prerogative of accepting or rejecting Ms Mufti’s note of dissent and the three Government members’ recommendations in favour of Messers Khoda, Jerath and Khan. However, they said, Governor was likely to seek opinion from Advocate General and eminent legal and constitutional experts including those based outside J&K. These sources said that Raj Bhawan had already obtained authentic text of all related laws in the state as well as at the national level and a particular study was underway of the Supreme Court of India judgment, dated March 3rd, 2011, in the famous PJ Thomas petition. 

According to these sources, there was no major hitch after clean chit to Mr Khoda in the so-called Bhaderwah triple murder case by J&K High Court but moral aspects of Mr Khoda’s appointment were now in sharp focus.


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