KG news Desk
Jammu, April 4: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday took oath as Jammu and Kashmir’s first woman chief minister heading a 22-member coalition ministry with the BJP — and in no time attended office.
She was sworn into power nearly three months after her father and then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed died in a Delhi hospital on January 7.
Mufti, who would be 57 next month, took the oath in the name of God in Urdu, the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, in a simple function held at Raj Bhavan in Jammu.
The Peoples Democratic Party has nine cabinet and three junior ministers — the chief minister included — and the Bharatiya Janata Party has eight cabinet and two junior ministers in the new government.
BJP leader Nirmal Singh remains the deputy chief minister.
Constitutionally, the Jammu and Kashmir council of ministers cannot have more than 25 members.
Mehbooba Mufti drove to the civil secretariat in Jammu that houses the offices of the chief minister, ministers and top bureaucrats.
There, she was presented a guard of honour by the state armed police in the presence of Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar.
The chief minister is likely to chair her first cabinet meeting later in the day.
The new coalition takes office after three months of political uncertainty sparked by the death on January 7 of then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
The PDP dropped two cabinet ministers — Altaf Bukhari and Javaid Mustafa Mir and inducted three-time legislator Zahoor Mir.
The other new face brought in as a junior minister by the PDP is Farooq Andrabi, who defeated state Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir from Dooru constituency.
The BJP dropped cabinet minister Chaudary Sukhnandan and brought in his place Shyam Lal Chaudhary. The BJP also dropped a junior minister, Pawan Gupta.
Ajay Anand, a BJP legislator from Reasi constituency, took oath as a junior minister. He is a fresh entrant.
The BJP share of cabinet ministers includes People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone, son of late separatist politician Abdul Ghani Lone.
Mehbooba Mufti is the 13th chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, Minister of State Jitendra Singh and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav attended the event. So did former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah.
Mufti also became the 16th female chief minister to serve a state in the country. Currently, there are four in office. They are J Jayalalitha (Tamil Nadu), Anandiben Patel (Gujarat), Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) and Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal).
Twenty-two other ministers including 16 Cabinet rank ministers and the rest ministers of state also took oath in a brief ceremony. The cabinet rank ministers are PDP’s Abdul Rehman Butt Veeri, Ghulam Nabi Lone ‘Hanjoora’, Abdul Haq Khan, Syed Basharat Bukhari, Haseeb A. Drabu, Chaudhary Zulfikar Ali, Syed Naeem Akhtar and Moulvi Imran Raza Ansari and BJP’s Dr. Nirmal Singh, Chander Prakash, Bali Bhagat, Chaudhary Lal Singh, Sajad Gani Lone, Shayam Lal Chaudhary and Abdul Gani Kohli.
The ministers of state are, Asiea Naqash, Syed Farooq Ahmed Andrabi and Zahoor Ahmed Mir from the PDP and Sunil Kumar Sharma, Priya Sethi and Ajay Nanda of the BJP.
Nirmal Singh would be the deputy chief minister, the post he held also in the previous PDP-BJP government headed by Mr. Sayeed. Sajad Lone has been made the minister again under the BJP quota.
All the members of the Council of Ministers took the oath of office under Jammu and Kashmir’s own Constitution as is obligatory under law. Ten ministers including Chief Minister Ms. Mufti took oath in Urdu, J&K’s official language, 7 in Hindi, 4 in English and one each in Kashmiri and Dogri.
PDP’s Syed Altaf Bukhari and Javed Mustafa Mir who served as cabinet ministers in the previous PDP-BJP government and also two former ministers of state from the party Abdul Majeed Padder and Muhammad Ashraf Mir were dropped this time, reportedly for their dissident activities and poor performance.
There is likely to be no change in the portfolios worked out by the two parties in 2015. Under the agreement, portfolios like home, finance, revenue, law and justice and education will remain with the PDP while BJP will keep health, urban development, power, commerce and industries and public health engineering.
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by senior BJP leaders including Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu, Harsimrat Kour Badal and Jitdendra Singh and BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav and former J&K chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah besides a battery of dignitaries, representing various walks of life. However, the Union ministers who were special invitees from the Centre for the swearing-in ceremony arrived at the function late, only after Ms. Mufti and her deputy Nirmal Singh had completed taking the oath.
Mufti’s mother Gulshan Ara Nazir, daughters Iltija and Irtiqa and siblings Tassaduq Sayeed, Mahmooda Sayeed and Rubaiya Sayeed and some other Mufti family members and friends were also present. Senior Congress leaders invited to the ceremony did not turn up.
BJP gets increase share in cabinet; Congress boycotts
The BJP got increased strength in the Cabinet led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
BJP’s share increased this time in the Cabinet from six to eight berths and three Ministers of State (MoS) while PDP has nine Cabinet Ministers instead of 11 last time.
Mehbooba’s party has got three MoS berths, same as the last time.
In the last government, BJP had a total of 11 ministers — six in Cabinet, three MoS and two with independent charge.
Sajjad Gani Lone, son of late separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, remained in the Cabinet in the BJP quota.
PDP has dropped Altaf Bukhari and Javed Mustafa from the ministry.
Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Jitendra Singh were among the host of VIPs present at the function held at Raj Bhavan.
However, PDP MP Tariq Hamid Karra and Congress boycotted the ceremony.
BJP promoted Chering Dorje and Abdul Gani Kohli as Cabinet ministers. They were Ministers of State with independent charge in the Sayeed-led government.
The saffron party has Prakash Kumar and Shyam Lal Chowdhury among the new faces in the cabinet. BJP leader Sukhnandan was dropped from the list of Ministers besides Minister of State Pawan Gupta, an independent MLA from Udhampur, who has been replaced by Ajay Nanda.
Law Minister in the Sayeed’s ministry, Basharat Bukhari of PDP, took oath in Kashmiri again this year.
Mehbooba assuming office as 13th Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is a landmark event in the history of the state and the country. She is the first woman to head the state and the second Muslim woman to become the Chief Minister of any state in India. Syeda Anwara Taimur was the first Muslim woman CM in Assam in 1980 and continued to hold the chair till June 30, 1981.
The new government has also retained two woman ministers from the earlier coalition— Priya Seth (BJP) and Asiya Nakash (PDP).
Apart from Nirmal Singh, who will lead the BJP flock in the coalition, Chandra Prakash, Bali Bhagat, Lal Singh, Dorje, Abdul Gani Kolhi, Ajay Handa, Sunil Kumar Sharma are also a part of the new government.
From the PDP’s side, Ghulam Nabi Lone, Abdul Rehman Veeri Abdul Haq Khan, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari, Haseeb Drabu, Syed Naeem Akhtar Andrabi and Zahoor Ahmad Mir were sworn in as ministers.
The cermony had ministers taking oath in different languages. While Mehbooba and Nirmal Singh stuck to Urdu and Hindi respectively, Bukhari took his oath in Kashmiri.
BJP’s Lal Singh took oath in Punjabi while Dorje chose English.
The two parties came together last year with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed heading the government for 10 months till his death on January 7.
Mehbooba, who is presently a member of Lok Sabha, will have to resign from her parliamentary seat and will get six months to secure membership of one of the two houses of the state legislature.
The PDP-BJP coalition has 56 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly.
The PDP has 27 members while BJP has 25. Peoples’ Conference has two MLAs while two other independents are supporting the coalition.
The revival of the PDP-BJP coalition government in the state — after three months of stalemate — became possible after several rounds of hectic negotiations between the two parties and apparent intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Following Sayeed’s death, Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state as the PDP and the BJP did not stake fresh claim for government formation in the state.
Initially, the two parties maintained that Mehbooba was not in a position to take over the reins of the state as she was mourning her father’s death.
However, after the mourning period was over, the PDP said it was looking for assurances and confidence building measures from the Centre on implementation of Agenda of Alliance — common minimum programme of the two parties — before forming the new government.
Hopes of ending the deadlock were raised when BJP general secretary Ram Madhav arrived in Srinagar in a chartered plane to meet Mehbooba Mufti late in the evening on February 17 but nothing came out of the hour-long meeting.
The next high level contact between the two parties came on March 19 when Mehbooba met BJP president Amit Shah.
Again the two parties failed to resolve the issues, forcing the BJP to publicly admit for the first time that no headway could be made on government formation.
In fact, several PDP leaders went to extent of saying the prospects of an alliance with the BJP were all but over.
However, to everyone’s surprise, the PDP president went to meet the Prime Minister three days later and decks were cleared for the formation of the government.
Gets rousing reception at Civil Secretariat
Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti was accorded traditional Guard of Honour on her arrival at the civil secretariat here today.
Welcomed to the seat of power with a rousing reception, Ms Mehbooba was offered the Guard of Honour by Jammu and Kashmir Police contingent.
The Chief Minister took salute and was escorted by the Director General of Police K Rajendra on the occasion.
Ms Mehbooba was this morning sworn-in as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Minister straightway drove to the civil secretariat from Raj Bhawan and was received warmly by the Council of Ministers, Chief Secretary, Mr B R Sharma and other top civil and police officers and employees of the secretariat.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh and other members of the Council of Ministers were also given a warm reception on their arrival at the civil secretariat.
Mehbooba Mufti turned Peoples Democratic Party into a regional force and emerged from the shadow of her illustrious father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to head state, the first woman Chief Minister of the J&K.
A law graduate, 56-year-old Mehbooba took a plunge into mainstream politics of the state in 1996 by joining Congress, along with her father, at a time when militancy was at its peak.
She is credited with growth of the PDP with some observers arguing that she outshone her father in connecting with the common people, especially the youths.
She was also accused of playing the soft-separatist card. PDP chose the green colour for the party flag and adopted Pen- Inkpot election symbol of the Muslim United Front (MUF) of 1987, but these moves found some resonances on the ground among the Kashmir residents.
Heading a PDP-BJP government formed with an alliance between two idealogical extremes, Mehbooba faces a challenging task ahead as she will strive to carry forward her father’s ‘healing touch’ legacy.
A mother of two daughters, she assumed an image of a fiery leader and won her first Assembly election as a Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara.
She then played a key role in her father’s victory as Congress candidate in Lok Sabha elections of 1998 when he defeated National Conference’s Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir.
As Sayeed felt an urge to do something for return of peace to Kashmir, Mehbooba was by his side and the father-daughter duo floated their regional party – the PDP – in 1999.
They took along some leaders disgruntled with National Conference and many from Congress, a party where Sayeed spent most of his six-decade political career.
From there, Mehbooba took on the responsibility of building the new party.
Mehbooba used to visit the homes of those killed in militancy-related violence and immediately struck a chord with the people, especially women, often lending them a shoulder to cry on.
In the 2002 Assembly polls, termed as watershed in the state, PDP bagged 16 seats – most of them from south where Mehbooba had extensively campaigned and consolidated the support for her party and her father was sworn-in as the chief minister with the support of his former party Congress.
Two years later, Mehbooba contested Parliamentary polls from south Kashmir and won her first Lok Sabha election.
She contested Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar in 1999 but was defeated by her bete noire Omar Abdullah.
When Amarnath land row engulfed the state, Mehbooba played an important role in persuading her father to pull out from the coalition government with Congress headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad.
In 2008 assembly elections, she contested and won from Wachi segment of Shopian district of south Kashmir. Her party increased the tally to 21 seats but preferred to stay in the opposition.
It was the National Conference which formed a coalition government with Congress, which was still smarting from the PDP ‘betrayal’ following the Amarnath land row.
Mehbooba consolidated her party’s support base in the years spent in opposition, highlighting the alleged failures of the NC-led coalition government.
She was considered a very active Opposition leader, the result of which was seen in 2014 Lok Sabha elections as the party won all the three seats in the Valley.
Months later, PDP emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly elections bagging 28 seats, paving the way for her father to become Chief Minister for the second time.
In March 2015, after months of hectic negotiations, the party formed government in Jammu and Kashmir in alliance with BJP.
Although Mehbooba kept a low profile post government formation, she assumed a more central role after reports of Sayeed’s ill health surfaced. She was seen by her father’s side at most public functions.
As Sayeed’s health deteriorated, there began speculation about a change of guard in the party and credence to these speculation was given by Sayeed himself when he hinted that his daughter could take over the reins — not by virtue of being his daughter but by her hard work.
Following Sayeed’s death on January 7, the state was put under Governor’s Rule and the Assembly was kept in suspended animation on January 8.
PDP then sought assurances on a timeframe for implementation of the Agenda of Alliance from the Centre before renewing its alliance with BJP for government formation.