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Saturday, March 26, 2016

BJP wants to 'balance' Cabinet, portfolios before government formation

Six-member PDP-BJP delegation scheduled to meet Governor at Raj Bhawan today

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz 
SRINAGAR, March 25: Even as BJP is still attempting to claim two more Cabinet berths and share in some key portfolios like Home and Planning to "balance the Council of Ministers", a six-member delegation of the PDP-BJP alliance is scheduled to meet Governor Narendra Nath Vohra to stake claim for the government formation in Jammu and Kashmir at Raj Bhawan on Saturday.

Authoritative sources said both, PDP as well as BJP, were seeking an appointment with the Governor on Saturday. According to these sources, PDP's President and Chief Ministerial nominee Mehbooba Mufti and Lok Sabha members Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hameed Karra, bedides BJP's State President Satpal Sharma and deputy Chief Minister-designate Dr Nirmal Singh, would meet Governor at 1530 hours and formally stake their claim jointly to form the new government.

After receiving both the parties' letters of support in favour of the PDP President, Governor would formally invite Mehbooba Mufti to take oath of office and secrecy, most probably before or after the Vice President’s April 2nd visit to Jammu. Hamid Ansari is scheduled to attend the annual convocation of the University of Jammu. Before his visit, Governor is likely to pass vote-on-account on March 28. The regular annual budget for the financial year 2016-17 would be subsequently presented and passed by the representative government in a session of the State legislature.

Ms Mufti, alongwith Baig and Karra, was actually scheduled to meet Governor in the evening on Friday. BJP was separately scheduled to meet Mr Vohra after formally electing Dr Nirmal Singh as Leader of Legislature Party and endorsing the party high command's decision to support PDP and Ms Mufti as Chief Minister. However, both the parties conveyed to Raj Bhawan that they wanted to meet him jointly after holding some meetings.

"As per the Governor’s letters of 22nd March 2016 to President, JK PDP and State President BJP, they were scheduled to have separate meetings with him at Raj Bhavan, Jammu, today afternoon. Raj Bhavan was approached by PDP today afternoon to ascertain whether the PDP and BJP leaders could meet the Governor together today evening. This was agreed to", Raj Bhawan spokesperson said in a press release.

"The Spokesman disclosed that PDP and BJP leaders had later informed Raj Bhavan that talks were ongoing at Jammu between the leaders of their parties and they would make a fresh request for meeting the Governor when they had concluded their discussions", it added.

Sources said that BJP's scheduled meeting at the Guest House on Canal Road elected Nirmal Singh as the party’s leader in Assembly and thus nominee for the post of Deputy Chief Minister. It also decided to support Ms Mufti as the Chief Minister. However the much speculated joint meeting between the two parties did not happen till late on Friday night. Lok Sabha member from Udhampur-Kathua and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh and BJP's national General Secretary Ram Madhav attended the BJP meeting. 

Sources said that both the Central leaders returned to New Delhi by a chartered aeroplane in the evening. 

Well-placed political sources disclosed to STATE TIMES that an influential section of the BJP leadership emphasised on Friday that before becoming a partner in the coalition government with PDP, BJP must seek "balancing of the Cabint and the portfolios". 

"In the 25-member Council of Ministers led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, BJP had only 7 Cabinet Ministers, including our associate member SajjadLone. On the other hand, PDP had 11 Cabinet Ministers. Besides, BJP had four Ministers of State (including associate member Pawan Gupta) and PDP three. Currently both BJP and PDP have 28 MLAs each. So we have a genuine demand that both the parties must have 9 each Cabinet Ministers and 3 each Ministers of State", said a senior BJP leader who claimed that nobody in his party was authorised to speak to the Press. He disclosed that BJP was also seeking its MOSs in Home and Planning portfolios retained by PDP in Mufti’s regime.

"If we have agreed on the principle of equal distribution of everything, there should be no problem with our coalition partner in balacing the proportion in the Cabinet and rationalisation of portfolios", the BJP stalwart asserted.

However, all the PDP leaders who spoke to STATE TIMES on the condition of anonymity, did invariably rule out the possibility of conceding any berths or portfolios to the BJP. 


[ Published in today’s STATE TIMES ] 

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