Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone, an ally of the BJP, is learnt to be unhappy with the low-key Science & Technology and Animal Husbandry portfolios he has got in the J&K government, and may refuse to take charge.
Soon after the allocation of portfolios in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government on Tuesday evening, sources close to Lone said he was “unhappy with the portfolios that have been assigned to him”, and “considers them an embarrassment”. He would not stay in the ministry with these portfolios, the sources said.
“In 2002, the proxy candidate that he (Lone) had fielded from Handwara, was given the Forest ministry. It is going to be a huge embarrassment if he agrees to take these departments,” said a source. Lone did not take calls.
Two days after the swearing-in of the PDP-BJP government, meanwhile, senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig said the coalition had failed to make a “promising beginning”. There should have been greater clarity in the alliance’s agenda for governance on issues such as talks with Pakistan and Hurriyat, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Baig said.
Baig denied, however, that he was giving vent to his frustration at being sidelined during the negotiations between the two parties, or staking claim to a ministerial position at the Centre. “I don’t think Mufti sahib thinks in that way. It is only a few small people who can misinterpret what I have said,” he said. “I have already sent a letter of resignation from Parliament to Mufti sahib, and he can forward it to the Lok Sabha Speaker if he so desires,” Baig added.
The PDP got 10 of the 16 cabinet berths announced on Tuesday, even though several important departments went to the BJP. Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh of the BJP will be cabinet minister for Power Development and Housing & Urban Development.
The PDP’s Shia face Imran Raza Ansari has got the relatively insignificant Information Technology, Technical Education & Youth Services, and Sports departments. Ansari, whose family enjoys the support of Shias across Kashmir, helped the PDP win at several constituencies.
The top slot among PDP ministers has gone to economist and former journalist Haseeb Drabu, who has been given Finance, Labour & Employment and Culture. Drabu has emerged as the new power centre in the PDP after he successfully negotiated the alliance with the BJP.
The two women in the ministry, Priya Sethi (BJP) and Asiya Naqash (PDP) are MoS for Finance and Information Technology, and Health, Social Welfare and Transport respectively. The lone Ladakh representative, Chering Dorjay (BJP) will be MoS (Independent Charge) Cooperatives, and minister for Ladakh Affairs.