NC-Cong CC meets today to discuss reshuffle, other issues

NC-Cong CC meets today to discuss reshuffle, other issues

6 January 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In follow up of last evening’s meeting between top State leadership including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with UPA chairperson and AICC (I) president Sonia Gandhi, the Co-ordination Committee of National Conference and Congress (I), two major coalition partners in the State Government, is meeting here tomorrow morning to discuss a host of issues including a possible reshuffle-expansion in the Cabinet. The Co-ordination Committee meeting was postponed last month as some of the members were out of station. Pradesh Congress chief and former Union Minister Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, who happened to be chairman of the Co-ordination Committee, reached here this morning from New Delhi after meeting Mrs Gandhi last evening along with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy and National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah, AICC (I) secretary and Incharge Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Mohan Prakash and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand. Prof Soz told the Excelsior this evening that he has convened meeting of the Co-ordination Committee at 10.30 am tomorrow at the State Guest House. The Co-ordination Committee, headed by Prof Soz, comprised Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, all from Congress, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather and Law & Parliamentary Affairs and Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, both from National Conference. Earlier, Dr Farooq Abdullah was third member of the Committee from the NC. However, Prof Soz said, the National Conference during past few meetings has been deputing either Industries and Commerce Minister Surjit Singh Slathia or veteran party leader Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, a former Minister and sitting MLA as its third representative. A National Conference spokesman tonight said that Dr Farooq Abdullah wouldn’t be available for the meeting. He added that Mr Rather, Mr Sagar and Choudhary Ramzan would attend the Co-ordination Committee meeting. Prof Soz said reshuffle in the State Cabinet would definitely figure in the meeting of the Co-ordination Committee. According to sources, the new faces to be inducted in the Cabinet or the Ministers to be dropped are not discussed in the Co-ordination Committee. However, the Congress high command has taken a decision that a Minister indicted by police in land grabbing case is likely to be dropped. The list of Ministers to be inducted in the Cabinet or dropped would be brought here by AICC (I) secretary, Incharge Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Mohan Prakash when he visits the State in third week of January as reported earlier by the Excelsior. The reshuffle-expansion in the Council of Ministry will be an 'all Congress affair’’. No NC leader would be inducted or dropped from the Ministry. The portfolios of NC Ministers would also remain unchanged, sources said. The Congress was pressing for induction of three Ministers, two against the vacancies, one of which had arisen after the removal of Mr Saroori from the Cabinet and a likely vacancy which could arise after dropping another Minister besides the third against existing two vacancies-one each of which falls in quota of NC and Congress. The Congress was seeking Cabinet berth for Abdul Mujeed Wani, MLA Doda and Minister of State status for Ravinder Sharma, MLC and Ashok Kumar Bhagat, MLA Ramban. This would give adequate representation to Doda belt where Congress has five out of six MLAs. The induction of Ravinder Sharma in the Council of Ministry will give representation to twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch from where he belonged. Presently, there is only one MoS-Congress leader Shabir Khan in the Council of Ministry, who represents Rajouri Assembly segment. Khan is MoS Power. Earlier , the Congress had sought the portfolio of MoS Home for Aijaz Khan, MoS with Independent charge of Haj and Auqaf and other portfolios. However, the NC had turned down the demand and gave the charge of MoS Home to party leader Nasir Aslam Wani. Sources said as per the power sharing agreement between NC and Congress, the portfolio of Power, presently held by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, would remain with the NC. It was during PDP-Congress coalition Government that portfolio of power had gone to Congress and was held by Mohammad Sharief Niaz and Nawang Rigzin Jora. Only the portfolio of R&B, which has been held by the Chief Minister since the removal of Ghulam Mohammad Saroori from the Ministry in August 2010, would go to the Congress. Sources said the Government could consider giving charge of MoS Home to a Congress Minister making it two MoS Home in the Ministry provided that the request came from the Congress high command. According to the NC-Congress agreement, the portfolios held by Cabinet Ministers of one party, would be held by the MoS of other party. This agreement, if lacking somewhere, will be strictly implemented after the reshuffle-cum-expansion. The reshuffle or expansion has not been effected in the Council of Ministry since a long time especially after the removal of Saroori. Since then the portfolio of R&B Ministry besides Power, Home, General Administration Department (GAD), Planning, Information, Civil Aviation, Hospitality & Protocol etc are being held by the Chief Minister. Under the State Constitution, the Government can have 25 Ministers including the Chief Minister. After Mr Saroori was dropped from the Cabinet, strength of the 23 members Ministry of Omar Abdullah had come down to 22. Authoritative sources said the Co-ordination Committee would discuss threadbare the pros and cons of reshuffle or expansion in the Cabinet. 'We will decide the agenda then and there. No formal agenda has been circulated among the members. All six of us would work out the issues required to be discussed for smooth functioning of National Conference-Congress coalition Government. The Co-ordination Committee will also set the agenda for next three years of the Government’’, Prof Soz said. The NC-Congress coalition Government had completed three years of governance yesterday. 'We stand for implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution’’, Prof Soz and another Congress member in the Co-ordination Committee, Mangat Ram Sharma said. These issues could figure in the Co-ordination Committee, sources said. Mr Sharma said the Congress stands for implementation of both 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India in Jammu and Kashmir to give more powers to Panchayats and Municipalities. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during the tenure of UPA-I had also called for implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution in J&K to fully empower both Urban and Rural Local Bodies. Mr Sharma, who held the post of Deputy Chief Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led PDP-Congress coalition Government, said the Congress would press in the Co-ordination Committee meeting for the early holding of Municipal elections, which have been hanging fire since March 2010. He said the issue on whether to contest the Municipal elections collectively by the National Conference and Congress or separately would also be discussed. However, he added that there was a general view that the Congress should go it alone in the Local Bodies elections. He maintained that a final decision to this effect would be taken by the party leadership. Sources said the National Conference-Congress Co-ordination Committee would also discuss and devise a strategy for upcoming elections for four seats of MLCs from Panchayat quota, two each reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions. The Election Commission of India was expected to announce the elections soon. Both coalition partners were likely to share two seats each in the election. The vacancy created in the Upper House with the death of Congress leader Yashpal Khajuria, who had been elected to the House only on April 13 last year, would also go to the Congress. Election for the vacancy would be notified by the Election Commission. Sources added that several other issues would also be taken up in the meeting of the Co-ordination Committee and sorted out. Meanwhile, Prof Soz on his arrival here this morning called on Governor NN Vohra at Raj Bhawan. They discussed various subjects of public importance and reviewed prevailing situation in the State, Congress spokesman Ravinder Sharma, PCC (I) general secretary and MLC, said.