March 14, 2015 4:09:36 am
With relations strained between the PDP and its ally BJP after the release of separatist leader Masarat Alam, the PDP plans to reinforce its commitment to the alliance through a series of confidence building measures.
Elevating two BJP ministers of state with independent charge to Cabinet rank, setting up a coordination committee for better communication, allocating more portfolios to Sajjad Lone and more prominence to deputy CM Nirmal Singh in the Valley are some initiatives the two parties have agreed on.
BJP’s lead negotiator in the run-up to the alliance, Ram Madhav, had a 30-minute meeting with Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu on Wednesday. “They discussed ways to avoid miscommunication in the backdrop of Alam’s release,” said a PDP leader, who did not wish to be named. Ram Madhav and Drabu had drafted the common minimum programme of the alliance government.
Best of Express Premium
The PDP, conscious of its dominance in the state Cabinet, now plans to upgrade the rank of two BJP ministers. “This will make the Cabinet more representative of the alliance and also enthuse the cadre in the local BJP unit,” said a Cabinet minister of the PDP. At present, 11 PDP legislators hold Cabinet rank while only six from the BJP are Cabinet ministers. Chering Dorjay is an MoS with independent charge of cooperatives and Abdul Ghani Kohli with independent charge of transport. The elevation will change the perception of a skewed Cabinet, a PDP leader said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, a decision was also taken to set up a coordination committee which will include the state presidents of the two parties, besides three senior leaders from both BJP and PDP. “The committee will be set up in a week to ten days,” a source said.
Alam’s release on March 8 had created a furore in Parliament, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that he was not aware of what had transpired in J&K. Ram Madhav conveyed the concerns of his party and the displeasure of the PM at not being alerted in advance to the PDP leadership.
The PDP leadership admitted that there was a communication gap and Modi should have been informed about Alam’s release. It, however, maintained that the Union Home Ministry was aware of the situation.
Sayeed is also walking the extra mile to provide comfort to the BJP ministers in his Cabinet. “He asked Deputy CM Nirmal Singh to chair a sub-committee to meet various delegations in the Valley and assess the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims. The visit of the sub-committee to the Valley on Sunday — the day after Alam was released — was the first since since the formation of the PDP-BJP government,” said a senior PDP leader. This was also a measure of the importance PDP vests in the ties, he pointed out.
While some argue this is mere optics, PDP leaders said Mufti was keen to connect Jammu with Kashmir, and initiatives like these would help build confidence and trust within the alliance.
To further smoothen rough edges, the PDP leadership is considering beefing up the portfolio of Lone, who was not satisfied with science and technology and animal husbandry. It is likely that Lone, who is in the Cabinet on BJP’s quota, may be further accommodated with additional portfolios, with both BJP and PDP agreeing to part with some departmental portfolios.
🗞 Subscribe Now: Get Express Premium to access our in-depth reporting, explainers and opinions 🗞️