A new coalition government headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is likely to assume office in Jammu and Kashmir this week after weeks of speculations, but the distribution of portfolios between the parties may have caused a minor glitch. The BJP was earlier eager to continue the alliance but the PDP president dug in her heels, seeking Confidence-Building Measures (CBM’s) from the Centre before continuing the alliance.
Now it is the BJP that is silently giving PDP president Mehbooba a tough time. Days before the new government assumes office, a fresh controversy over the distribution of major portfolios has erupted between coalition partners. A group of BJP state legislatures are seeking new portfolios, including the all-important ministries like Finance, Planning and MoS Home.
The idea to redistribute the portfolios on an equal basis was floated by state BJP leaders in Jammu, when they met BJP national secretary Ram Madhav and senior state BJP leader and Union Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh on Friday.
The most vocal, among the state leadership, to demand new portfolios is Nowshera MLA, Ravinder Raina, and some old hands of the BJP in Jammu, who were present at the crucial meeting, before announcing their support for PDP.
A former RSS worker, Raina — who served as a commissioned officer in the Indian Navy — said that BJP deserves equal and important portfolios because his party has same number of seats in the legislative assembly, as its ally PDP.
“What is wrong with this, if I am demanding equal distribution of portfolios? There was discussion among the party MLA’s over the issue and we expressed our views, that we should have some important ministries,” Raina told Firstpost on Sunday.
Mehbooba, the PDP chief, staked claim for government formation on Saturday, after she was elected Leader of the PDP legislature party. She called on Governor NN Vohra at Raj Bhavan in Jammu accompanied by party MPs Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hameed Karra, besides Leader of BJP legislature Dr Nirmal Singh.
Sources said it would be difficult for PDP to give away these important portfolios, after two of its senior leaders Beg and Karra have reaffirmed their faith in the alliance and are seen accompanying Mehbooba on every official occasion.
“Tariq Karra may return to state politics, after he shunned his previous position in the BJP-PDP alliance in the state. That means the Finance Ministry would go to him, not Haseeb Drabu. When you have situation like this how would you expect Finance to be given to BJP member?” a senior PDP leader asked Firstpost.
Even for the Central leadership of the BJP it is becoming hard to appease their state leadership as the demand for the redistribution grows louder.
Presently, the BJP has 28 members, including two from its strategic partner Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference, and PDP has 27 members in the 87-member Assembly house.
The rift over the distribution of Ministries became clear on Saturday when senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said, “issues between the BJP and PDP are yet to be resolved,” and this will be done before taking the oath.
“PDP and BJP leaders will sit together and discuss the issues to resolve them,” Singh told reporters outside the Raj Bhavan, in Jammu.
Earlier Mehbooba and Singh had informed the governor that they were engaged in discussions and would soon intimate him about a mutually convenient date on which the coalition government could be sworn in.
After meeting the governor, Mehbooba had expressed hope that the new government would work on the agenda of peace, reconciliation and development.
“Mufti sahab had formed this alliance on the basis of secular culture which exists in the state. We have a mixed population in Jammu and Kashmir like Hindu, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs,” Mehbooba said referring to her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s decision to ally with BJP last year.
“Mufti sahab’s demise had created a void in Jammu and Kashmir. To restore the trust and gain confidence, we took some time. I think it was worth it. Mufti sahab had formed this alliance for a larger purpose than just for the sake of government-formation,” she said.
"There are no differences between the PDP and BJP. At a time when the government formation is in the process, rumours on differences on distribution of portfolios are baseless," PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akhter, said.
However National Conference leader Omar Abdullah pitched in saying the coalition partners should inform the people about the reason for the delay in announcing the date for the swearing-in ceremony of the ministers of the new government.
Would anyone from the PDP or BJP care to inform the people of J&K why the date for the oath taking can't be announced now? What's the delay?
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 26, 2016
The state has been under Governor's Rule since 7 January , 2016 after the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. He headed the PDP-BJP coalition government for 10 months in Jammu and Kashmir.