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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 ] 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Mehbooba is PDP's Chief Ministerial nominee

Legislature Party meeting avoids reference to 'CBMs', timeframe for implementation of Agenda of Alliance 

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz 

SRINAGAR, March 24: In a dramatic volte face from its eleven-week-long stand on extension of the coalition with BJP, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday not only decided to form government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party but also elected its President Mehbooba Mufti as the Legislature Party leader and the Chief Ministerial nominee in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the political sources privy to the developments, PDP's Legislature Party, which met at Ms Mufti’s Gupkar Road residence late in the afternoon, took just a few minutes to unanimously elect her as the Chief Ministerial nominee. While as the party's ebullient leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig conducted the proceedings, another senior leader Tariq Hameed Karra, who had issued dozens of statements against continuation of the alliance with PDP, came out with unqualified support to the proposal of forming the government with BJP. He and all other participants favoured Ms Mufti as the Chief Minister.

Mehbooba’s name was proposed by MLA Bijbehara and former Horticulture Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri. It was seconded by MLA Amirakadal and former Minister of Works Altaf Bukhari.

All the 27 PDP MLAs, associate member and MLA Zanskar Syed Bakar Rizvi, Lok Sabha members Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hameed Karra, Rajya Sabha members Nazir Ahmad Laway and Fayaz Ahmad Mir, Chairman Legislative Council Haji Anayat Ali, besides all the PDP MLCs attended the meeting which was presided over by Mehbooba Mufti.

Senior PDP leader and former Education Minister Naeem Akhtar said: “Following the nomination of Mehbooba Mufti as the PDP Legislature Party leader and the chief ministerial candidate, further constitutional requirement and the process for the government formation would be taken to the logical conclusion in consultation and coordination with the coalition partner BJP".

Akhtar said Ms Mufti thanked the party leaders and legislators and urged them to rededicate themselves to accomplish the mission and vision of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. She also reiterated her resolve to work towards implementation of the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ formulated with BJP. He said that Ms Mufti has been invited by Governor N.N. Vohra for a meeting at Raj Bhawan on Friday.

Sources present in the meeting told STATE TIMES that Ms Mufti assured the participants that formation of the government with BJP would be in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She even made it clear that her Ministers would be accountable to the party cadres and the people in general and they would have to cease to be the "constituency leaders". She made it clear that there would be no room in her Council of Ministers for the non-performers.

Sources said that Ms Mufti did not explain as to what specific assurances she had obtained from BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for implementation of the commitments made to the PDP in last year's Agenda of Alliance. Nobody in fact asked her what made her change over two-month-long stand as she had firmly ruled out formation of the government with BJP in absence of Kashmir-specific CBMs and a timeframe for implementation of different items figuring in the Agenda of Alliance.


[ Published in today’s STATE TIMES ] 

In Governor’s rule, Chairman of anti-graft body wants Rs 32 lakh Toyota Camry 

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz 

SRINAGAR, March 16: Believe it or not, highly placed authoritative sources insist that the Chairman of an autonomous commission, responsible to eradicate corruption in top echelons of the establishment in Jammu and Kashmir, has been adamant, surprisingly in Governor’s rule, that the State government should purchase for his official use a Toyota Camry priced at Rs 32 lakh. While as the petrol model of the super luxury saloon in India costs Rs 29 lakh, its 2015 diesel variant stands priced at Rs 32 lakh.

Sources revealed to STATE TIMES that State Motor Garage (SMG) has, strictly in accordance with Chairman’s desire, which does not even remotely match with his entitlement under rules, placed an order with an Indian dealer for a Rs 32 lakh saloon. The vehicle is expected to be delivered to the head of the anti-graft body before March 31, 2016.

Government’s Financial Code, prescribed for different classifications of public servants, makes it clear which kind of vehicles can be purchased and used by the incumbents. Sources insist that even the cost of the official vehicles used by heads and members of other commissions and boards, Advisors to Governor, Chief Secretary, Financial Commissioners, Principal Secretaries, Chief Justice and other judges of J&K High Court, Heads of Departments and Managing Directors and Chairpersons of Corporations is restricted to a limit between Rs 5 lakh to 15 lakh.

Interestingly, even an Advisor to Governor, who is usually seen travelling in a single car, was spotted last fortnight driving all alone his private car to Indira theatre in Jammu. He parked his car and went in to watch a Bollywood film like an ordinary common man.

“If the members and heads of the commissions created for fighting corruption and making politicians and bureaucrats accountable, assume this kind of a super luxurious lifestyle, how can they deliver?”, asked a top government functionary. “Who will take cognizance of this loot of State exchequer and who will do justice to the ordinary taxpayer?”


[Published in State Times March 17, 2016]