Has NC Sacrificed Too Much For Omar's Crown?

11 January 2009
Kashmir Times

Jammu: The portfolio distribution in the coalition ministry has caused disquiet in the better experienced National Conference circles where a feeling is growing that the party has been made to sacrifice too much in return for a full six year term for its Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Party sources said on the condition of anonymity that relatively minor portfolios have been put aside for National Conference while most of the key departments will be held by Congress ministers once Omar expands his cabinet in the coming days. It has been reliably learnt that other key portfolios which include Power, Consumer Affairs Public Distribution (CAPD), Revenue, Higher Education and Public works department have also gone in the kitty of Congress. Excluding the portfolios currently with the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, NC presently has Finance, Law, Parliamentary Affairs, Rural Development, Panchayats, Forests, Environment, Ecology, Industries, Commerce, Employment and Labour. On the other hand, the ministries with Congress include Housing, Urban Development, Municipalities, Elections, Printing and Stationery, School Education, Public Enterprises Department, Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control, Health, Horticulture, Floriculture, Tourism and Culture. Sources affirmed that on the analogy of its ministry sharing formula in Maharashtra with Nationalist Congress Party, state Congress leadership had even pressed for being alloted the portfolio of Home to whosoever is nominated as Deputy Chief Minister from its party. But for the special circumstances prevailing in the state, sources added that congress high command decided not to annoy its 'bigger partner'. Regarding allocation of Finance Portfolio to National Conference, a senior Congress leader said 'Since we do not have any parallel of Abdul Rahim Rather in our party, the ministry was set to go to him.' However, he affirmed that planning department which Chief Minister has kept with himself is likely to be given to a Congress minister. Sources said that Ghulam Hassan Mir from the Democratic Party (Nationalist) and Hakim Mohammed Yasin from People's Democratic Front, who have extended their support to the Congress, are likely to get two key portfolios in the coalition ministry after their induction which is going to take place within this week. Earlier, Surjeet Singh Slathia was being tipped to bag one of these two key portfolios. Choudhary Mohammed Ramzan has been left wanting for a place in the coalition ministry. Another NC stalwart Mubarak Gul is awaiting a cabinet berth. Provincial NC leadership is also apprehensive of young Nasir Sogami's likely inclusion in the council of ministers. 'Barring one or two important portfolios, there is nothing significant where the NC leaders would have made their contribution. Now, even if these ministries are given to inexperienced ones, dissent within the party is likely to increase,' opined a political observer. NC leaders are also peeved over the fact that departments like Tourism, Floriculture, Horticulture, Housing and Urban Development which they had been eying for their greater significance in the constituencies from where they have been elected. It is being felt that Ministers with little or no experience in the department have been given the important ministries whereas experienced hands have been given relatively unimportant departments. The impression is that Congress high command had its way in the portfolio distribution with NC leadership remaining contended with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's six year term. There is an increasing feeling within some sections of NC that Barring Rather and Omar Abdullah, all other NC ministers would be playing second fiddle in the coalition government.