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J&K: BJP Minister of State a murder accused

| YUSUF JAMEEL
Published : Apr 5, 2016, 6:06 am IST
Updated : Apr 5, 2016, 6:06 am IST

New J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti exchages greetings with former Union minister Farooq Abdullah, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah and other guests after taking oath at Raj Bhavan in Jammu. (Photo: PTI)

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New J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti exchages greetings with former Union minister Farooq Abdullah, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah and other guests after taking oath at Raj Bhavan in Jammu. (Photo: PTI)

Four new faces have been inducted into the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir. One of them, the BJP’s Sunil Kumar Sharma, who took oath as a minister of state in Monday’s swearing-in ceremony in Jammu, is a murder accused in the 2008 communal riots in eastern Kishtwar district of the state.

Mr Sharma was elected to the state Assembly from home constituency Kishtwar in the November-December 2014 elections. His name is recorded in an FIR (No. 133/08) registered at Kishtwar police station as a member of the group that had allegedly attacked people from the other community, killing two persons and leaving several others injured during the communal clashes in Kishtwar in 2008. The case against him is registered under Sections 7/27 of the Arms Act, 302, 436, 188, 435, 336, 149, 153 of the Ranbir Penal Code.

The other new face from the saffron party is Sham Lal Choudhary who took oath as a Cabinet-rank minister.

The PDP dropped four of its members who served as ministers in the previous PDP-BJP coalition government headed by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. They are Syed Altaf Bukhari and Javed Mustafa Mir, both Cabinet-rank ministers, and Muhammad Ashraf Mir and Abdul Majid Padder who were ministers of state in the previous dispensation.

Mr Bukhari, Mr Ashraf Mir and Mr Padder were first time ministers where as Javed Mustafa Mir had been a minister also in the PDP-Congress coalition government which took over the reins with Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as chief minister in 2002. He won three elections in a row from home constituency Chadoora.

A new face from the PDP is Syed Farooq Andrabi, MLA Dooru of southern Anantnag district. Mr Andrabi who has been inducted as a minister of state is Ms Mufti’s aunt’s husband.

The BJP also dropped two ministers Sukhnanadan Kumar and Pawan Gupta who served as Cabinet rank and minister of state in the previous government. They have been replaced by Shayam Lal Chaudhary and Ajay Nanda, respectively. Mr Gupta represented Udhampur constituency, the seat he won as an Independent in the 2014 elections but later pledged his support to the BJP. Mr Choudhary and Mr Nanda are MLAs from Suchetgarh and Reasi, respectively.

In the council of ministers there are nine Cabinet-rank ministers.

Mr Bukhari, who was dropped unceremoniously, denied he was leading any pressure groups within the PDP and said he did not keep his ties with the BJP any secret as his main objective was to avoid thrusting another election upon the people of J&K.

“One year passed since the polls were held in 2014. I didn’t want people to undergo further hardships. If anyone says I was leading the pressure group, I would say in return that my basic objective was to make Mehbooba Mufti state’s chief minister,” he said. Asked about the reasons behind him being dropped as minister, Mr. Bukhari said he has family relations with the Muftis and that it was only this relation that made him to contest elections in 2014. Another senior party leader and Lok Sabha member from Srinagar Tariq Hameed Karra who had publicly opposed PDP’s alliance with the BJP and even threatened to quit the party on the issue boycotted swearing in of the party leader Chief Minister. Ironically, he had along with PDP vice president Muzaffar Hussain Baig accompanied her when she met the Governor in Jammu last month to stake claim to form the government. PDP sources said that a day before its legislature party met here to elect Ms. Mufti as its leader, Mr. Karra had a dinner meeting with her during which she successfully persuaded him to actively return to the party fold and promised him that he also would be inducted into the council of minister and given finance portfolio. But the BJP objected to her choice on the plea that Mr. Karra had openly and publicly denounced the PDP-BJP alliance and even talked about dual currency for the State during PDP’s previous stint in power. Mr. Karra, however, said that he had a meeting with Ms. Mufti late Sunday night and told her to drop three ministers “who played a dubious role and are responsible for the failure of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.” He alleged that these ministers had plotted to form government with the BJP without Ms. Mufti as she delayed formation of new government for nearly three months. Sources said that another former cabinet minister whom Ms. Mufti wanted to drop for same reason pulled the strings from Jammu to Delhi and succeeded in making it to the council of minister again. Meanwhile, opposition parties have criticised the PDP-BJP combine for ‘ignoring’ the twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu by not giving representation to these in the council of ministers.

Location: India, Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar