January 2017 News

Cabinet Meet Put Off As PDP, BJP Rift Deepens

31 January 2017
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Dinesh Manhotra

Jammu: The 23-month-old PDP-BJP coalition is on a collision course after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said yesterday that those people working to scrap Articles 370 and 35-A would be doing a big 'anti-national' act. Although the Chief Minister during her speech on the floor of the Assembly on Monday evening had avoided naming any group, her attack was obviously aimed at the Sangh Parivar as all its off-shoots, including the BJP, are in favour of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A. Landing in an embarrassing position, the panic-stricken BJP members this morning raked up the issue in the Assembly. Their action further widened the differences, forcing the government to postpone today's important Cabinet meeting. According to the agenda, the Cabinet was to take a decision on some important Bills to be tabled in the ongoing Budget session, including amendment to the controversial Transfer of Property Act. 'I got information this morning that today's Cabinet meeting had been postponed but no reason was given for it', a BJP minister, who wished not be quoted, told The Tribune. He said the CM's speech had not gone down well among BJP leaders and workers. After the Assembly ruckus, Mehbooba had gone to the party office and then straight to her official residence. Highly placed sources said she called Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu and Education Minister Naeem Akther at her official residence to discuss the situation. 'She was scheduled to visit Gulmarg to attend a function on Wednesday but keeping in view the ongoing developments, she is unlikely to go', the sources said. Meanwhile, the BJP has also toughened its stand. 'With her remarks, the Chief Minister is trying to regain her lost constituency but such utterances would prove to be disastrous for the BJP in the Jammu region', a senior BJP leader said, adding that being head of the government, it was responsibility of the CM to watch interests of her coalition partner also. Chief spokesman of the state BJP Sunil Sethi termed the CM's statement as 'factually untrue and unsustainable.' He said, 'In fact, Article 370 has led to the state becoming a breeding ground for separatism and militancy. Its effects have been used by vested elements to talk about non-existing 'sub-nationalism' which is the core reason for all problems of the state'. The sources said fearing backlash of the CM's statement in their respective constituencies, BJP legislators had conveyed their feelings to Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh. In a bid to placate the enraged legislators, the Deputy Chief Minister called them this evening to discuss the situation. 'Nirmal Singh tried to convince them that there was no need to further rake up this issue', the sources said, adding that he was trying to resolve the crisis.