As PDP Sits Pretty, Azad Tries To Balance Cabinet Aspirations
16 December 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Finally Muzaffar Hussain Beig is back as Deputy Chief Minister, and so are Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s troubles. He is set to face the wrath of party leaders who were convinced they would be inducted into the Cabinet with Beig. It has been a long wait for them, and their expectations had peaked when Azad recently wrote a letter to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, seeking his choice for Deputy Chief Minister of the state. It was speculated that the induction of the Deputy CM would take place along with the much-awaited Cabinet expansion. As per its quota, the Congress can get three more posts in the ministry, one Cabinet and two ministers of state. The party is expected to give representation to women, Kashmiri Pandits, Scheduled Castes or Sikh communities in these posts. However, only Beig was sworn in last Monday. Asked about a Cabinet expansion, Azad was non-committal. The Chief Minister’s caution is understandable given that he has to make a choice from among many aspirants for the three ministerial berths. In fact, his letter to the PDP seeking its pick for Deputy CM may have been a tactic by Azad to delay a Cabinet revamp. The Congress reportedly did not expect its partner to be so prompt with its choice of Beig, as the PDP has its own share of in-house rivalries. For example, Tariq Hamid Karra, who was holding the portfolios of Finance, Planning and Law and Parliamentary Affairs, was said to have conveyed to the PDP high command that he wouldn’t take any move to strip him of the finance portfolio before the Budget session lightly. Mufti found a way out by installing Beig back in a post he earlier held as well as recommending allocation of only Planning and Law and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios to him. Not only that, the PDP patron also managed another coup when he ensured that senior party leader Qazi Afzal was given back his forest portfolio. He had earlier refused to operate as Housing and Urban Development Minister in protest against stripping of the forest portfolio from him. In his reactions after being reinstated into the Cabinet, Beig indicated that the Muftis were firmly in control of the party. “It was primarily my fault (that I was removed as Deputy CM)... I did not keep the high command informed about certain things... But there were many people in the party who flared and fanned up the misunderstanding, drifting me further away from the leadership.” Looking to tide over his own choices for Cabinet berths, Azad could perhaps take a tip or two from Mufti.