Jammu/ Srinagar: Mehbooba Mufti was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at a simple ceremony at Raj Bhawan in Jammu.
Governor NN Vohra administered her oath of office and secrecy along with 22 legislators to form her council of ministers.
Mehbooba (56) succeeds her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who died in a New Delhi hospital on January 7.
Initially, Mehbooba was reluctant to step into her father’s shoes citing “deep mourning” but later she expressed reservations in continuing the alliance with BJP, seeking CBMs and assurance that the saffron party will strictly adhere to the Agenda for Alliance that was to guide the government.
This led to imposition of Governor’s rule for about three months. Mehbooba finally agreed to form the government after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on March 22. Neither CBMs, nor a revision of the terms of the alliance took place.
Besides Mehbooba, Dr Nirmal Kumar Singh, nominated by the BJP to be Deputy Chief Minister, Abdul Rehman Bhat Veeri, Chander Parkash Ganga, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, Bali Bhagat, Abdul Haq Khan, Lal Singh Chowdhary, Basharat Bukhari, Sajad Gani Lone, Haseeb A Drabu, Chering Dorjey, Choudhary Zulfkar Ali, Sham Lal Choudhary, Naeem Akhtar, Abdul Ghani Kohli and Imran Raza Ansari took oath as Ministers for the State.
Six legislators, Asiya Naqash, Sunil Kumar Sharma, Farooq Andrabi, Priya Sethi, Zahoor Ahmad Mir and Ajay Nanda, were administered oath as Ministers of State.
Mehbooba dropped four ministers from her father’s council of ministers— Altaf Bukhari, Javed Mustafa Mir, Abdul Majid Paddar and Muhammad Ashraf Mir.
While Bukhari is understood to have shown signs of rebellion during the three months of Governor’s rule, Javed Mustafa Mir’s induction has been stalled on BJP’s reservations. Mir was a minister in PDP-Congress coalition also. Ashraf Mir and Majid Paddar representing Sonawar and Kokernag assembly constituencies were apparently dropped for their poor performance during the 10-month rule of Mufti Sayeed.
Instead, Mufti picked Dooru legislator Farooq Andrabi, who is her close relative. Andrabi is married to younger sister of Mehbooba’s mother Gulshan Begum. Pampore legislator Zahoor Ahmad Mir is another fresher in the Mehbooba’s council of ministers. Mir is the third-time MLA. He won the first by-poll in 2003 after his legislator father Abdul Aziz Mir was killed by militants.
BJP replaced former Irrigation Minister Sukhnandan Kumar with Sham Lal Chowdhary, while elevating its only Muslim MLA Abdul Gani Kohli to the cabinet rank. The BJP also introduced Ajay Nada as Minister of State.
The low-key ceremony was attended by union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Harsimrat Kour and Dr Jitendra Singh, former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and a host of legislators, bureaucrats and political leaders. None of the four women chief ministers in India, whom Mehbooba had invited, attended the ceremony.
The event was telecast live on the state-run Doordarshan but private television channels were not allowed to cover the event.
Mehbooba also skipped interaction with the media persons and instead drove to the civil secretariat to interact with her council of ministers and top bureaucrats.
She apparently evaded media to avoid any controversy at the outset. Her father had courted a major controversy on the day of his oath-taking on March 1, 2015, when he thanked Pakistan and militants for smooth conduct of elections. The statement opened the account of controversies for him that continued to haunt his government till his last breath.
Later in the day, Mehbooba Mufti was accorded traditional Guard of Honour on her arrival at the civil secretariat by a state police contingent.
No major changes in portfolios
One of the most awaited developments of the day, allotment of portfolios, happened late in the night. In fact, the information department sent the list of the departments allotted to each minister after 12am. Lal Singh, who was health minister in the previous government, has been allotted the departments of Forest, Ecology and Environment. Haseeb Drabu and Naeem Akhtar have been allotted the portfolios they held in the previous stint, while the departments of Social Welfare, ARI and Trainings have been allotted to People’s Conference chairman and BJP ally Sajad Gani Lone.