Early Times Report
JAMMU, Feb 17: As the changing colour of leaves of trees in the sprawling lawns of Governor House, overlooking picturesque Golf Course across the vast expanse of Tawi river bed, and a little warmth creeping into the atmosphere signalled a change in weather in the second half of February, a change also took place today in the 10 month old Mehbooba Mufti-led J&K government with the induction of an old hand into the state cabinet from PDP quota. A minor reshuffle of portfolios was also effected.
In a simple ceremony, which was attended by Mehbooba, her council of ministers, legislators of BJP, PDP and NC and some prominent persons, PDP's Amirakadal MLA Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari was administered the oath of office and secrecy by governor N N Vohra. With this, the strength of PDP ministers, including the chief minister, in the coalition government has now risen from 12 to 13.
After the ceremony, that lasted five minutes or so, Altaf met both the governor and the chief minister and exchanged smiles. He also met other ministers, who were seated in rows, and senior administrative officers.
The state, which has a 70-member Assembly, can have a maximum of 25 ministers. While BJP has been given 11 ministerial berths, PDP's share is 14. BJP has already exhausted its quota, but PDP has still one more vacant cabinet berth to fill. The party may decide about the appropriate choice at the appropriate time to fill it.
Still miles behind achieving the goal of providing a transparent and corruption-free administration to the people, a promise the coalition partners had made at the time of facing electorate during assembly polls in the state, the government took 10 months and 13 days to fill one vacant berth, leaving the other vacant, giving rise to speculations about Mehbooba's possible 'choice' for the other.
Though it took Mehbooba, considered in the state's political circles as a 'sauve' and 'astute' politician like her father, such a long time to decide about the 'right' choice, one wonders if her government is on the path of bolstering talent pool with 'doers'. Altaf has already served as works minister in the erstwhile Mufti Syed-led government. He was, however, dropped by Mehbooba after she became chief minister on April 4, 2016, three months after the demise of Mufti Syed. Before his demise, Mufti Sayeed had become the J&K Chief Minister for a second time. He was first sworn in as chief minister at SKICC, Srinagar, on November 2, 2002.
The changed political landscape had started unfolding in J&K with the first PDP-BJP government taking charge on March 3, 2015. That was the marking of BJP having come of age in J&K, though its ministers are now faced with the allegations of 'underperformance'.
With Altaf's inducted into the council of ministers, the chief minister also effected a minor reshuffle of portfolios in pursuance of Rule-5 of the J&K government Business Rules.
The newly inducted Altaf has been given the charge of education department while Naeem Akhtar, who earlier held education portfolio, has now been given charge of PWD. Abdul Rehman Veeri is given the charge of ministry of revenue, disaster management, relief rehabilitation and reconstruction and parliamentary affairs while Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari has been assigned the charge of horticulture department.
Haseeb A Drabu would hold the charge of finance, labour and employment. The charge of department of culture would remain with the chief minister.