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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Basharat, Imran ‘resign’ as allocation of portfolios triggers typhoon in Mehbooba’s Govt

One Minister upset over insignificant portfolio, another Minister senses ‘conspiracy within’, writes letter to CM

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 17: Induction of the PDP heavyweight Syed Altaf Bukhari back into Cabinet after his virtual suspension for over ten months, followed by resultant reshuffle of portfolios among five Ministers on Friday, triggered a major crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as two Cabinet Ministers —Syed Basharat Bukhari and Imran Raza Ansari—tendered their resignation. Some MLAs of the PDP earlier stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony.

The Government chose to remain mute but well-placed political and bureaucratic sources maintained that Basharat sent a written and signed communication to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti complaining to her that the change of his portfolio from Revenue to Horticulture was the culmination of a "protracted conspiracy” against him within the party. He is said to have asserted that his continuation in the Council of Ministers in the current circumstances would be very difficult and he, as such, should be relieved of his responsibility as a Minister.

Sources confirmed that Basharat’s letter reached the Chief Minister and she would deal with it "as per her own wisdom and judgment".

Even as many of the politicians and bureaucrats insisted that Basharat resigned for losing out a prestigious portfolio and getting an insignificant one, participants of the swearing-in ceremony told STATE TIMES that the Minister was visibly incensed and returned in a huff as the security staff at Raj Bhawan entrance did not allow in four of his guests who did not carry any invite for the ceremony. He turned back in protest along with PDP’s Rajya Sabha member Fayaz Ahmad Mir.

Dozens of attempts to speak to Basharat failed as he did not respond to phone calls from this correspondent. His phone was found continuously “busy”. However, a television network and a Srinagar-based news agency claimed to have accessed the Minister. They reported that the Minister confirmed his resignation and having written a letter to the Chief Minister. The letter reportedly detailed a sequence of the "conspiracies" against the Minister. Basharat is PDP's MLA from Sangrama (Baramulla) in his third successive term after a stint as MLC. He was Minister of Law in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's Cabinet.

In quick succession, reports said that PDP's first term MLA from Pattan (Baramulla) and Minister of Youth Services and Sports, Information Technology and Technical Education, Imran Raza Ansari, too resigned from the Cabinet. Even as there was no official confirmation to it, Ansari’s family sources told STATE TIMES that he had tendered his resignation around 5.00 pm. However, sources in CM’s bureaucratic and security detail insisted that Ansari’s resignation had not reached to the Chief Minister till late on Friday evening.

Since his induction into the Cabinet, first by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in March 2015 and later by Ms Mufti in April 2016, Ansari is known to have been dissatisfied over allocation of an “insignificant portfolio” to him. Some political sources insist that he had been lately assured that the Chief Minister would redress his grievance and allot an important portfolio (CAPD) to him on the day of Altaf Bukhari’s induction. He was reportedly upset when the allocation of portfolios was made public on Friday. However, Ansari was not reachable for confirmation.

Significantly, a number of the PDP’s “angry and disappointed” MLAs were conspicuously absent at the swearing-in ceremony earlier. They included MLA Chadoura Javed Mustafa Mir, MLA Noorabad Abdul Majid Paddar and MLA Sonwar Mohammad Ashraf Mir who were Ministers in Mufti’s Council of Ministers but were, along with Altaf Bukhari, not taken by Mehbooba Mufti last year. Ashraf Mir was reportedly in Mumbai or Bengaluru. PDP’s Kokernag MLA Abdul Rahim Rather was also absent.

Reports said that Rather and Paddar had conveyed their "disappointment and displeasure" to Chief Minister while complaining that “all the defeated candidates” had been rehabilitated and given status of a Minister or Minister of State but the winners had been exposed to embarrassment within their respective constituencies.

The crisis in the PDP has sprouted days before Ms Mufti is leaving for Umrah in Saudi Arabia with a heavy family entourage including her mother, sister and other relatives. One of the bureaucrats of her Government returned on Friday after making necessary arrangements for the CM’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.



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