Cabinet expansion on cards in J&K
3 June 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
Srinagar: Much awaited Cabinet expansion in the State is on the cards. The issue of expansion also figured during a meeting Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had with UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi today. Presently, Azad led PDP-Congress coalition Government has 13 Ministers including 11 Cabinet and two Ministers of State with independent charge. As per a legislation passed by the Legislature restricting strength of the Ministry to 20 per cent of total strength of the two Houses, Mr Azad can only induct 12 more Ministers in the Government. Authoritative sources told the Excelsior that five new Ministers are likely to be inducted in the Cabinet from the Congress. The Congress representatives are likely to be one Cabinet Minister and four Ministers of State. Possibility of Speaker Tara Chand being included in the Cabinet are not ruled out. The People's Democratic Party (PDP), the second largest coalition partner, is expected to get a share of four Ministerial berths-one Cabinet and three MoS. The Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist Panthers Party (JKNPP) is also likely to get one Cabinet berth. Two Ministries are expected to go to Others. An earlier proposal to induct CPM leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami in the Cabinet hasn't matured as his name was not cleared by the party high command, the sources said. Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri districts, which are unrepresented in the Cabinet presently, are certain to get representation, according to sources. Out of present 13 member Cabinet including the Chief Minister, six Ministers belonged to Congress, four to PDP and one to PDF. Nawang Rigzin Jora and Haji Nissar Ali represent Leh and Kargil in the Cabinet, which was sworn- in on November 2, 2005. Meanwhile, Mr Azad in his meeting with Mrs Gandhi in New Delhi today also discussed with her organisational, political and developmental issues. He briefed her about the issues taken up in Round Table Conference held in Srinagar on May 24 and 25. Lauding State Government efforts for successful and smooth conduct of the Conference, Mrs Gandhi expressed satisfaction on the peace of implementation of PM's re-construction plan in J&K. She also appreciated the decision to set up five working groups on different fields in J&K. Mrs Gandhi hoped that a new era of economic prosperity and trade will begin with free movement of trade on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. Mr Azad informed Mrs. Gandhi that besides Prime Minister's Reconstruction Programme Jammu and Kashmir has also started double shift of working system from May 21 this year on various development works of high public importance. Acknowledging the concern of Mrs Gandhi regarding drowning of 22 school children in Wullar Lake, the Chief Minister said that Mrs. Gandhi was first to enquire about the incident when it took place and expressed her heartfelt grief over the loss of precious lives of school children in the tragedy. Mr Azad also called on Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and briefed him about grenade attacks on tourist buses and the relief and medicare extended to the tourists. He also briefed him about the security arrangements made in this regard. Mr Patil appreciated efforts of the State Government in maintaining confidence of tourists despite the cowardice acts of attacks on tourists. He observed with appreciation the unanimous condemnation of such acts by the people of Kashmir giving loud and clear message to entire world that people of Valley would not tolerate any harm to any tourist.