J-K: Mehbooba sworn in as first woman CM; BJP gets more cabinet berths

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Jammu
  • Updated: Apr 04, 2016 14:18 IST
Governor NN Vohra administered oath of office and secrecy to Mufti at Raj Bhavan in Jammu, who became the 13th chief minister of the state. (ANI Photo)

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was sworn in as 13th and the first women chief minister, a tag she is uncomfortable with, of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state on Monday.

She also became the second Muslim woman to head a state – the first was Syeda Anwar of the Congress who became the chief minister of Assam in 1980.

Mehbooba was administered oath of office by governor NN Vohra at Raj Bhavan in a relatively low-key affair.

Dressed in green, 56-year-old Mehbooba took the oath of office and secrecy in Urdu followed by BJP’s Nirmal Singh, who will again be the deputy chief minister in the new PDP-BJP government formed three months after the state was put under governor’s rule following the demise of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

“It’s wrong to categorise a CM as man or woman. What is there in a man which a woman can’t do,” she had said on March 25 after staking claim to form the government, when she was asked if she is happy to be first Muslim CM of the state.

Watch | Mehbooba Mufti takes oath as CM

Also Read | Mehbooba is J-K’s first woman CM and India’s 16th

Mehbooba, who is presently a member of Lok Sabha, will have to resign from her parliamentary seat and will get six months to secure the membership of one of the two houses of the state legislature.

Vohra also administered the oath to 21 other ministers. Most BJP ministers read out their oath in Hindi and PDP ministers in Urdu. Chairperson of Peoples Conference - an ally of the BJP - Sajjad Lone and Haseeb Drabu took the oath in English.

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.

Unlike the swearing-in ceremony of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, Union parliamentary affairs minister Venkiah Naidu and MoS PMO Jitendra Singh represent the central government.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah also attended the ceremony. PDP MP Tariq Hamid Karra and Congress boycotted the ceremony.

Faces of the govt

The BJP has succeeded in getting equal representation in the cabinet with both the parties getting eight cabinet berth each - total 16 - and equal representation in junior ministers. The last cabinet had 18 ministers.

In the last government, BJP had a total of 11 ministers -- six in cabinet, three MoS and two with independent charge.

Mehbooba’s party has got three MoS berths, same as the last time.

Though both the parties had minor re-shuffle but the most noticeable exclusion was of former cabinet minister Altaf Bukhari, a powerful member of the Mufti Sayeed coterie.

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.

Apart from Nirmal Singh, who will lead the BJP flock in the coalition, Chandra Prakash, Bali Bhagat, Lal Singh, Dorje, Ajay Handa, Sunil Kumar Sharma are also a part of the new government.

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.

Sajjad Gani Lone, son of late separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, remained in the cabinet in the BJP quota.

The new government has also retained two woman ministers from the earlier coalition - Priya Seth (BJP) and Asiya Nakash (PDP).

Ups and downs in alliance

The re-stitching of BJP-PDP alliance ended about three-month of governor’s rule. The alliance had hit a low in this period and a couple of times it looked both the parties had snapped ties.

The revival of the PDP-BJP coalition government in the state became possible after several rounds of hectic negotiations between the two parties and apparent intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two parties came together last year with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed heading the government for 10 months till his death on January 7.

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 the 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 on a chartered plane to meet Mehbooba 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 the 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.

(With agency inputs)


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