All NC Ministers, Advisors, chairpersons to quit on Monday

All NC Ministers, Advisors, chairpersons to quit on Monday

12 January 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In a major political development, all National Conference Ministers, Advisors, chairpersons and vice chairpersons of various Boards would submit their resignations to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday to facilitate re-constitution of Council of Ministry and the party. The decision was aimed at infusing fresh blood in the Government and the party to prepare well ahead of 2014 Assembly elections. As the Congress, a coalition partner in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah led coalition Government, has already decided to induct and drop some of its Ministers and change portfolios of others, a major reshuffle-cum-expansion of the Council of Ministry and change of portfolios would take place in next few days, official sources told the Excelsior. They said all 10 Ministers of National Conference including eight of Cabinet rank and two Ministers of State (MoS), two Advisors and three chairpersons of Boards would submit their resignations to the Chief Minister at a dinner meeting on Monday to facilitate the Chief Minister to go for reconstitution of the Council of Ministry. 'Along with the Ministry, there would be a major reshuffle in organizational structure of National Conference. Some of the dropped Ministers could be assigned crucial party assignments while some senior leaders, working for the party, might be inducted in the Ministry’’, sources said. They added that at least 5-6 National Conference Ministers could be dropped from the Council of Ministry after obtaining their resignations and assigned party posts to further strengthen the National Conference and gear up well ahead for Assembly elections, which have been named by the party as ‘Mission 2014’. The Assembly elections in the State were due in November-December 2014 as the new Government had to be formed before January 5, 2015. Confirming reshuffle-expansion of the Ministry, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah this evening advised the aspirants of induction in the Cabinet not to approach him for joining the Government. Instead, he said, the aspirants should believe in the Almighty and leave rest to him. 'Dear aspiring Ministers, Please don’t come and ask me to make you Ministers. Trust the Almighty and your destiny, leave the rest to me’’, he tweeted. Sources said in addition to 10 Ministers of the National Conference, Devender Rana, Political Advisor and Mubarak Gul, Advisor to Chief Minister would also submit their resignations to the Chief Minister in Monday’s crucial meeting. Further, Shamima Firdous, NC MLA and chairperson of State Women Commission, Rashpal Singh, MLA and vice chairman Kissan Welfare Advisory Board and Mushtaq Bukhari, former Minister and vice chairman Pahari Welfare Advisory Board would also resign. All three chairpersons of the Boards have been granted the status of Minister of State. According to sources, the Chief Minister would obtain resignations of all Ministers, Advisors and chairpersons of the Boards. He would refer the resignations of the Ministers and others, who had to be assigned the party work, to Governor NN Vohra for acceptance while the rest would continue in the Ministry. As the National Conference already has one vacancy in the present 22 members Council of Ministry, the dropping of 5 to 6 Ministers would mean that the party would be in a position to induct 6 to 7 new faces in the Ministry. Sources said National Conference president and Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Dr Farooq Abdullah and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who happened to be the party’s working president have already discussed and decided to go for a major revamp in the Council of Ministry as well as organizational set up of the party. 'Farooq Abdullah has given his nod to Omar to go ahead with the reshuffle-cum-expansion of the Ministers and party set-up to gear up both well ahead of the Assembly elections to bring the party back to power’’, sources said. They pointed out that various un-represented areas of the State could get representation in the Council of Ministry from the National Conference. They clarified that the Ministers, who would be dropped from the Cabinet would have nothing to do with their performance. Rather, the Chief Minister would like them to give their services to National Conference and rejuvenate the party to make it a force to reckon with ahead of the elections and face the challenge of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has become a major threat for the ruling party. Sources said after obtaining resignations from the Ministers, Advisors and chairpersons of the Board, the National Conference high command would decide on the names of party Ministers to be framed for organizational structure and submit their resignations to the Governor for acceptance. As the Congress has almost finalized the names of its leaders for induction in the Ministry, the reshuffle-expansion could take place in the next few days. The date of the expansion was likely to be finalized shortly by the National Conference in consultations with its coalition partner-the Congress, sources said. They added that earlier the National Conference had decided not to go for reshuffle-expansion of its members in the Council of Ministry and keep the reshuffle confined to Congress only. Later, the party high command changed its mind and decided to induct some new faces in the Ministry and depute some Ministers for party work by dropping them. The decision was aimed at strengthening both the party and the Government, they said. The National Conference has 11 Ministers, eight of Cabinet rank and two Ministers of State besides the Chief Minister while the Congress has 10 Ministers, seven of Cabinet rank and three Ministers of State, two of them with Independent Charge. Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir represented DPN. The NC Ministers, who would be submitting their resignations in tomorrow’s dinner meeting, included Abdul Rahim Rather (Finance), Ali Mohammad Sagar (Law and Parliamentary Affairs and Rural Development), Mian Altaf (Forest), Surjit Singh Slathia (Industries and Commerce), Qamar Ali Akhoon (CAPD and Transport), Sakina Itoo (Social Welfare), Abdul Gani Malik (Higher Education) and Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Science and Technology, all in Cabinet rank, Nasir Aslam Wani, MoS for Home, Housing and Urban Development, PHE, Tourism and Revenue and Javaid Ahmad Dar, MoS for R&B, Mechanical Engineering, Health and Medical Education, Floriculture, Horticulture and Agriculture. As per the Constitutional provisions in Jammu and Kashmir, the State can have a maximum of 25 Ministers (20 per cent of total strength of both Houses of the Legislature). In Parliament and Assemblies, the maximum strength of the Ministry is confined to 15 per cent of total strength of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies. There were a total of 17 Cabinet Ministers in the State including the Chief Minister with nine belonging to National Conference and seven to Congress. DPN MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir is also a Cabinet Minister. In addition, there were five Ministers of State-three from the Congress and two from the National Conference. Of three Ministers of State from Congress, two (Aijaz Khan and Dr Manohar Lal Sharma) held the Independent charge of some Departments. Omar Abdullah was presently holding the charge of Home, General Administration, Planning and Development, Power, Works, Education, Information, Civil Aviation, Hospitality and Protocol, Estates etc. As against the Constitutional provision of 25 Ministers, there were only 22 Ministers in the State including the Chief Minister. Of three vacancies, two belonged to Congress and one to National Conference, as per the arrangement between two coalition partners. Sources said the Congress could induct three new Ministers, two in Cabinet rank and one MoS and drop one to fill its two vacancies. Of three new Congress Ministers, at least one or even two could hail from erstwhile Doda district. One of the new inductions could be from the Kashmir Valley. The Congress might drop one Minister from Jammu region. In case, the Congress opts for two inductions from erstwhile Doda district, one would be in Cabinet rank and another MoS. However, if one Minister was taken from Doda, he would be inducted as a Cabinet Minister, sources said. They added that a major reshuffle of portfolios would also take place after both National Conference and Congress effected the changes in the Ministries. However, they said, the portfolios of NC and Congress would remain with the Ministers of the two parties. The Chief Minister would shun the portfolios of Works and Education, which belonged to Congress. The Works portfolio had been lying with Omar after Congress Minister and MLA Inderwal Ghulam Mohammad Saroori was dismissed from the Cabinet in the wake of impersonation scam involving his daughter in MBBS-BDS exams of the ASCOMS. However, the CBI had later given clean chit to Mr Saroori. The portfolio of Education was lying with the Chief Minister after Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed was divested of it following involvement of his son in the examination scam. Sayeed continued as Public Enterprises Minister. The upcoming expansion in the Council of Ministry is being effected after nearly three and a half years. The last reshuffle had taken place on July 12, 2009 with the induction of 13 Ministers, eight of Cabinet rank and five MoS with two of them Aijaz Khan and Dr Manohar Lal Sharma getting Independent charge. Six Ministers each were sworn in from NC and Congress and one from DPN. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah along with nine Ministers had taken oath on January 5, 2009. Of 10 Ministers including the CM sworn-in that day, five each belonged to NC and Congress. The July reshuffle had taken strength of the Council of Ministry including the CM to 23 with two vacancies-one each of NC and Congress. However, after the removal of Mr Saroori on August 24, 2010, the strength of the Ministry had come down to 22 taking total vacancies to three and Congress to two.