Mufti to head 25-member cabinet in J&K on Sunday

RSTV Bureau

mufti_modiPDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed will head a 25-member cabinet, half of it from BJP. The swearing-in ceremony on Sunday will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With the PDP-BJP deal sealed after ironing out differences over contentions issues like Article 370 and AFSPA, 79-year-old Sayeed, who will be sworn in as Chief Minister, met the Prime Minister on Friday, capping two-month long hard negotiations between the two parties on government formation.

According to highly-placed sources, Sayeed will be heading a 25-member cabinet which will have 12 BJP MLAs including a Deputy Chief Minister post. This is the first time that BJP is in the government in the state.

Accompanied by chief interlocutor of PDP Haseeb Drabu, Sayeed had a nearly one-hour long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which he extended invitation to the PM for attending the swearing-in ceremony at Jammu on March one.

“I have extended invitation to the Prime Minister for attending the ceremony and he has agreed,” Sayeed told reporters after the meeting at PM’s official residence at 7, Race Course Road.

He said lot of discussions have taken place for the past two months to forge a common ground, a common agenda. He equated the PDP-BJP coalition with “bringing together of North Pole with South Pole”.

“The mandate of election is clear that PDP is the choice of people in Kashmir and BJP in Jammu. So we decided that we will unite together to give a government which will give all round development to all the regions in the state,” he said.

“It was discussed how a stable government should be formed. The PDP was of the view that we should not allow the opportunity to go waste as it was a historic opportunity with the government at the Centre that has a clear mandate of people to deliver,” he said.

Sayeed, who will be returning to power after a gap of more than nine years, backed Modi’s slogan, saying, “I also want Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas (development for all).” He was the Chief Minister of the state from November, 2002 to 2005.

When asked about Article 370 which gives special status to the state and AFSPA, Sayeed said, “Leave these issues. These are not issues. We have to do all this (hame karna padta hai)…All this will come in the Common Minimum Programme which will be announced after the swearing-in.”

Asked whether PDP was joining NDA at the Centre, Sayeed said, “it is too early to say that. Ministers will be decided soon. We have found common ground.”

To a question whether the CMP was for governance or for political alliance, he said, “It (the alliance) is both for political and governance. First political and then governance. When political atmosphere will be right then only governance will take place.”

The PDP patron said he aims to give a “healing touch” as anguish in one part of the huge country is not a good thing.

“My view was that an opportunity has come that Jammu region and Kashmir region will come together. If BJP got mandate in Jammu and PDP in Kashmir Valley, therefore they have got support of people. There is credibility. When they will merge, it will be dejure. It takes six hours from Jammu to the Valley, but opportunity is there to connect hearts and minds of people,” he said.

Sayeed said second aspect is when former Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Kashmir in 2002-03, he started a journey of friendship in Srinagar.

The December 23 election results saw a highly-fractured mandate with PDP emerging as single-largest party with 28 MLAs followed by BJP with 25. Erstwhile allies National Conference and Congress ended with 15 and 12 seats respectively.

BJP and PDP, which have been in negotiations for nearly two months now, have sorted out all the differences over Article 370, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, resettlement of West Pakistan Refugees and holding of talks with Pakistan and separatist leaders of the state.