JAMMU: History stood witness to a new chapter in J-K’s chequered political landscape on Sunday with the swearing-in of the PDP-BJP government — a first of many firsts in the state that became independent in 1947.
Tribune News Service
Jammu, March 1
History stood witness to a new chapter in J-K’s chequered political landscape on Sunday with the swearing-in of the PDP-BJP government — a first of many firsts in the state that became independent in 1947.
A 25-member team of ministers, led by PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor NN Vohra in Jammu. With this, the Governor’s over 50-day rule came to an end today.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a galaxy of BJP leaders, including national president Amit Shah, former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, were witness to their party becoming a partner in the J&K government for the first time.
The PDP and BJP had stood poles apart on contentious issues such as Article 370 that grants special status to the state; revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which shields armed forces from legal actions while fighting terrorism; West Pakistan refugees for whom the BJP wanted Citizenship rights; Delimitation Commission, which entails redrawing of Assembly constituencies in the state; and talks with separatists. The two sides softened stand during parleys.
Mufti has become the J&K Chief Minister for a second time. He was first sworn in as the Chief Minister at SKICC, Srinagar, on November 2, 2002.
When BJP’s senior leader Nirmal Kumar Singh was called to take oath, the changed political landscape started unfolding. That was the marking of the BJP having come of age in Jammu and Kashmir. The seating arrangement made him sit next to Mufti as his deputy. The Prime Minister hugged both and exchanged smiles which were greeted with applause in the overflowing Zorawar Singh auditorium, named after a Dogra warrior who led the forces and expanded the boundaries of the state to Gilgit Baltistan.
All ministers took oath by the state constitution – J&K has a separate constitution – and by the sovereignty of India. In quick succession, the names of the new ministers, both from the PDP and the BJP were called.
The loudest applause, however, was reserved for three —former separatist leader Sajjad Gani Lone of the Peoples Conference, Haseeb Drabu, an economist of international repute who showed his negotiating skills during talks with the BJP, and Lal Singh, a former minister in the first Mufti-led coalition government.
While Lone, who was given a ministerial berth from BJP quota, took oath in Urdu, Lal took oath in Dogri. Lal wore a traditional Dogri dress and headgear representing his land and culture. Occasionally, there were slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
On the dais, there were three seating arrangements —one where the Governor, Prime Minister, CM and Deputy CM were seated with Tricolour and state’s flag lying on the table in front of them. On the left were MPs, including Advani, Jitendra Singh, Mehbooba Mufti, Tariq Karra and Muzzaffar Beig. The third was for the ministers who were sworn in today.
Enthusiastic crowd, mostly top officials and businessmen, PDP and BJP workers, families of ministers, applauded the swearing-in of various ministers. Among them was Vikramaditya Singh, grandson of Maharaja Hari Singh. He is now a PDP leader. He was wearing a Dogri headgear, but there were not many paying attention to him.
Besides Mufti, 13 PDP leaders are in the council of ministers —10 of them with the Cabinet rank. Three others include Ministers of State. BJP’s 11 ministers include Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Kumar Singh. While six of them are cabinet ministers, the remaining three are Ministers of State.
The PDP has rewarded Ashraf Mir who defeated former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah from Sonawar, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjoora who defeated six-time MLA and former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather from Charar-e-Sharief constituency in Budgam district, and Abdul Majid Padroo, who had won from Noorabad constituency defeating the Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo.
The BJP consideration was adequate representation to different areas and castes. The party has two Rajput ministers, one Jat, two Brahmins, one Scheduled Caste and a Gujjar leader as ministers.
PDP ministers: 14
Cabinet rank: MM Sayeed, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Javed Mustafa Mir, Abdul Haq Khan, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari, Choudhary Zulfikar Ali, Haseeb Drabu, Ghulam Nabi Lone
Hanjura, Syed Altaf Bukhari, Molvi Imran Raza Ansari, Nayeem Akhter
Ministers of State: Asiya Naqash, Muhammad Ashraf Mir, Abdul Majeed Paddar
BJP ministers: 11
Cabinet rank: Nirmal Kumar Singh, Chander Prakash Ganga, Choudhary Lal Singh, Bali Ram Bhagat, Choudhary Sukhnandan Kumar, Sajjad Gani Lone
Ministers of State: Chering Dorjay, Sunil Kumar Sharma, Abdul Gani Kohli, Priya Sethi, Pawan Kumar Gupta
Sajjad Lone — from separatist to minister
Sajjad Gani Lone, younger son of People's Conference leader Abdul Gani Lone who was assassinated in 2002 in Srinagar, has crossed yet another threshold with his swearing in as a minister in PDP-BJP government since he broke ranks with separatists nearly a decade ago
Three Key players in the cabinet
Haseeb Drabu, a renowned economist, was economic advisor to the Mufti and Azad governments in the past. He was was also chairman of J&K Bank. His acumen lies in his substantive power of arguments and articulation. He played a key role in negotiating with the BJP for over two months to reach a consensus on contentious issues
Abdul Rehman Veeri, a four-time MLA from Bijbehra in south Kashmir, knows the government working as he was the minister in the previous coalition government headed by Mufti Sayeed and Azad (2002-2008). His knowledge of the land, people and the administration is rated high
Nirmal Singh, who was sworn as Deputy CM, is cast in an RSS mould. He started his political career as a pracharak. Singh defeated sitting Billawar MLA Manohar Lal Sharma. He is a doctorate in the Modern History. As a student leader, Singh was part of various agitations launched by the ABVP before he jumped into active politics
Key issues — What they have agreed on
Article 370: Grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir
AFSPA: Act gives special powers to armed forces in insurgency-hit areas
Citizenship rights to West Pak refugees
Dialogue with Pak
Talks with separatists
Where they stood
While BJP pushed for its complete abrogation, the PDP wanted to further strengthen the special status
PDP wanted the Act to be revoked; BJP pressed for Army's viewpoint on it
While BJP strongly advocated citizenship rights, PDP sought to maintain status quo
PDP wanted unconditional dialogue with Pak; BJP said terror and talks can't go together
PDP wanted talks with Hurriyat, BJP opposed importance to irrelevant groups
The BJP has softened its stand and agreed to maintaining all constitutional positions
pertaining to J&K
The coalition will examine the need of de-notifying 'disturbed areas'
Both parties agree to measures for sustenance and livelihood of West Pak refugees
The Modi govt recently initiated several steps to normalise ties with Pak. The coalition government will strengthen such initiatives
The coalition government will facilitate dialogue with all internal stakeholders