Baig sworn-in as DyCM, returns to Ministry after 15 months
10 December 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was today sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister of the State, a post from which he had resigned in September last year. He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha in a simple and brief ceremony in the lawns of Raj Bhawan this morning. Mr Baig, who represents Baramulla constituency in the Assembly, took the oath in English on the name of God in the ceremony that lasted just 5 minutes from 10.30 am. As reported, he was the lone member to be sworn-in today. The Congress Ministers are expected to be sworn-in at a later date. The swearing-in ceremony was attended among others by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed, Speaker Tara Chand, majority of PDP Ministers and legislators besides Mangat Ram Sharma, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, Rigzin Jora and Mohd Yasin, all Cabinet Ministers. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was significantly not present in the oath ceremony. Mr Baig returns to the Council of Ministers after a gap of over 15 months. He had resigned on September 1, 2006 following differences with the PDP leadership two days after he was stripped off the important Finance and Planning portfolios and from the post of Deputy CM. Mr Baig had served as Finance, Planning, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister during first three years of the coalition Government headed by PDP leader Mufti Mohd Sayeed. He was elevated as Deputy Chief Minister when Ghulam Nabi Azad replaced Mr Sayeed as the Chief Minister on November 2, 2005 but retained the same portfolios. This time, however, he is unlikely to get the vital Finance portfolio, which is being retained by another PDP leader Tariq Hamid Qarra. Mr Baig is tipped to get Planning, Law & Parliamentary Affairs and Tourism Departments. Mr Baig himself dropped enough hints that he will be getting Planning and not Finance when, speaking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, he said next yearís focus in Planning will be on employment. He added that Mr Qarra was an experienced leader and was handling the Finance Department well. He said both of them will co-operate with each other. Talking to newsmen after the oath ceremony, Mr Azad declined to give a categoric reply as to when the Congress Ministers will be inducted in the Cabinet. 'Suspense will continue till the oath ceremony takes place', he told a questioner without giving any specific reply on when the next round of Cabinet expansion could take place. Asserting that induction of PDP representative was not linked to inclusion of Congress leaders in the Ministry, the Chief Minister said delay on the part of filling up the PDP vacancy was due to delay in submission of name by the PDP leadership. 'As soon as they (the PDP leadership) submitted the name, the Cabinet was expanded', he said, adding 'had the PDP asked earlier for expansion, we would have done it'. Despite repeated queries, Mr Azad remained non-committal on giving an exact time frame on filling up three remaining vacancies in the Council of Ministers. On refusal of another PDP Minister Qazi Mohd Afzal to join the office after he was stripped off Forest portfolio and left with Housing and Urban Development Department only, the Chief Minister observed that it was a 'non-issue'. 'He (Mr Qazi) is not attending the office himself (as Housing and Urban Development Minister)', he remarked. On allotment of portfolio to Mr Baig, Mr Azad said he has been informed informally that it couldnít be done till voting in Poonch Assembly by-election is over. Only two-three days are left for the election process to be over in Poonch and after that the portfolios will be allotted, he added. He denied that there was any misunderstanding with the PDP or any other coalition partner. On his part, Mr Baig said his heart was in Planning and he was happy to get that portfolio. He assured a new model of planning next year, which incidentally is going to be the election year with coalition Government completing six years in office, saying the focus would be on generating employment. 'Employment remained a priority area for the Government. Though, we have achieved 80 per cent promises made in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), unemployment is a sector where something has to be done', he said, promising a new model plan to create employment in the coming year. 'It could take time', he said but added that focus would remain on generating job opportunities. Declaring that he was deeply committed to the coalition Government, Mr Baig asserted that from now onwards he will spend everyday in consolidating the coalition Government. 'If both the parties (Congress and PDP) work together, the electoral prospects of the coalition partners will be good', Mr Baig said. Admitting that there was misunderstanding between him and his party leadership (when he resigned in September last year), the PDP leader recalled that he had failed to keep the party leaders informed about working of the Government. This mistake will not be repeated, he added. With the induction of Mr Baig, strength of the coalition Ministry has gone up to 22, 14 of them are Cabinet Ministers including the Chief Minister and eight Ministers of State, including the one (Babu Singh) with independent charge. Addressing PDP office bearers at party office after taking the oath, Mr Baig said it is because of the agenda set by the PDP that the State is today emitting messages of political stability, democratic grandeur and economic renaissance. He said pro-people policies of the party have resurrected a sense of belonging among the people in all the regions and sub-regions of the State by making them equal stake- holders in the political and economic emancipation. 'The emerging refreshing scenario has started bringing into focus convergence of our interests rather than the hackneyed divergence,' he said and added that the larger world of opportunities at the peopleís level has slowly but surely started coming alive across the State. The PDP, Mr Baig said, visualized and is striving for a space of dignity and opportunity for the people of the State in a larger paradigm of friendship between India and Pakistan. He said the PDP strongly believed that nothing is valid and should be happening for Jammu & Kashmir except with active involvement of its people. 'However, the people from all shades of political opinion shall have to evolve a consensus on a pragmatic and workable solution of the issue in the interest of peace and stability,' he said and added that the time has come to strike a new benchmark in light of global and regional realities for resolution of the Stateís problems. He said the State canít remain aloof from massive economic progress taking place in the country and the region. 'The sense of siege that has gripped people of the State in the wake of partition will have to be addressed and their liberty to move along the traditional routes restored,' he said and added that the enterprising younger generation of the State has to be provided a more congenial atmosphere to flourish and assimilate into free global market economy. Mr Baig said massive infrastructural creation and upgradation program launched by the coalition Government in critical sectors would get further momentum in the coming months providing not only relief and succor to the people but better facilities as well. He said major area of focus for the coalition Government would be unemployment as it is posing a great challenge to the State.