Srinagar, Jan 14: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s decision to go for revamp of the council of ministers is seen as a step with an eye on the 2014 Assembly elections.
“Lost roots of National Conference, serious in-roads made by the opposition PDP and tiredness among some of the ministers has forced the Chief Minister to go for cabinet rejig,” sources said.
They said the move is based on proper feedback exercise done by Omar, who is also the working president of the ruling National Conference besides being the head of the coalition. “Omar was surprised to see the feedback. The move should have come after completion of three years of NC-Congress government but it is better late than never,” said an NC insider. Additional General Secretary of NC, Sheikh Mustafa Kamaal said the final answer as to why Omar made a “small development into such a big exercise full of suspense” lies with the Chief Minister only. “Even I don’t know the reason. The decision has been taken at the top level that include party president Farooq Abdullah, working president Omar and General Secretary Sheikh Nazir,” Kamaal said.
He, however, said the step can augur well for the future as 2014 is not that far. “I believe young blood to be infused in the party would bear fruit in the next Assembly elections,” Kamaal said. “There can be a reason for the reshuffle-cum-expansion that some ministers might have been feeling tired. Those to be inducted will work with more zeal and enthusiasm which is good for the party,” he said.
Kamaal said the arrangement between NC and Congress was just for formation of government. “As far the grand alliance between the two parties, I am a strong opponent of it. There is nothing of such thing. The arrangement is just for running the state affairs,” he said.
A senior NC leader said the move to induct new faces is a ‘risky step’ as the party is already facing strong resentment at the grassroots level as workers complain of being cold-shouldered by the existing ministers. “One thing needs to be kept in mind that Chief Minister has made it clear that Srinagar which gave NC the government in 2008 needs to be taken care of. Plus, some senior people need to be put on job to strengthen the party so that NC manages to regain its lost ground to some extent,” he said.
The move assumes significance owing to the fact that NC’s ailing General Secretary in his recent two-long speech had made repeated requests to the NC workers not to give fractured mandate to the party in 2014.
“You claim your problems are not being addressed. I think you are to be blamed for that, not the ministers. You gave us fractured mandate which made us to depend on Congress crutches. We have come down from 68 to 28 seats, which is a disgrace,” Nazir had told the workers.
NC sources said Chief Minister is likely to induct MLA Batamaloo Irfan Shah to give Srinagar further representation. As for the rest of the seven seats of Srinagar district, almost all except Zadibal and Sonwar are duly represented through various posts be it a Cabinet minister, MoS or head of a Commission.
At the same time, Congress wanted to regain its share from NC- the R&B and Education ministries - and to fill the vacant Cabinet berth as well. The party has been of late focusing on strengthening its roots in Kashmir valley where it has just three representations apart from the recent MLC post.
“We are following a strategy devised by the Congress high command. Kashmir obviously is our primary focus,” said a senior Congress leader.
State Congress chief Saifuddin Soz said there will be three to four fresh inductions in the Cabinet from Congress. “For me, the move is comprehensive and purely aimed at strengthening the vote bank in the entire state, especially in Kashmir. We have done a lot of hard work for Kashmir in the past and new inductions will help reap the benefits,” Soz said.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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