Fin min sacked unceremoniously for failing to retract his statement, Mehbooba takes over
Srinagar: In a damage control exercise, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sacked its finance minister Haseeb Drabu from the cabinet, two days after he claimed Kashmir was not a political issue but a social one.
Drabu was not conveyed the decision of his removal but came to learn of it from the media, according to Drabu’s close aide. The decision, according to a top source, was taken after Drabu did not retract his statement as the PDP had demanded.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday dispatched a letter to Governor NN Vohra, who okayed the decision to remove Drabu from the cabinet.
“Yes, the Governor has approved it today,” PDP chief spokesperson Rafi Mir told Kashmir Reader. The government did not issue an official statement on the minister’s sacking.
Outrage had followed Drabu’s speech at a gathering organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Delhi, in which he remarked that Kashmir was not a “political issue”. Opposition parties, pro-freedom groups, and business bodies denounced the statement. Drabu tried to justify his statement by blaming the “cub reporter” for reporting “bits and pieces, not the entire speech”.
Apart from Drabu, two PDP ministers Altaf Bukhari and Imran Raza Ansari along with prominent hotelier Mushtaq Chhaya were part of the high-profile event. Mehbooba was also supposed to attend the event but could not make it there. Bukhari had announced in the gathering attended by foreign diplomats, officials, businessmen and others that the chief minister could not participate as she would be late.
Drabu, who is considered as the chief architect of the PDP-BJP alliance, had returned to Jammu from Delhi on Sunday. He, however, did not join office. He was “not” aware about his dropping from the council of ministers and learnt it after the news appeared in media, a source close to Drabu said.
“It happened all of a sudden. He wasn’t aware. But he is very calm and composed,” the source said.
It is for the second time that Drabu has faced unceremonious exit. In 2010, he was pushed by the Omar Abdullah government to put in papers.
Drabu did not respond to repeated calls and text from this paper.
Hectic lobbying had begun within the PDP for the finance minister’s post, instead of expressions of support for Drabu. A couple of senior party leaders, pleading anonymity, said that Drabu was already out of favour with party colleagues. A few accused him of creating “hurdles” in releasing funds while others insisted he would not give them audience. This, sources insisted, had created lobbies and open resentment against him. So much so, many in the party “cheered” the move. “More such decisions are required to give the party new lease of life,” one of them said.
A source told Kashmir Reader that Mehbooba would likely keep the portfolio for herself until a replacement for Drabu is found. Late in the night, just when this copy was being filed, an order was issued by the general administration department saying the chief minister would retain the portfolio.
“Consequent upon acceptance of the recommendations by the Governor in regard to dropping of Haseeb Drabu from the council of ministers, the portfolios of finance, labour and employment shall henceforth be under the chief minister’s charge,” it said.
Earlier in the day, former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Simply sacking the architect of the BJP-PDP alliance & co-author of the agenda of alliance will not redeem the PDP for the sins of the last 3 years.”