BJP seeks free hand in Jammu, equal share in J&K cabinet

Srinagar, March 31: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is demanding from its ally Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) an equal share in Jammu and Kashmir's new government and also a free hand in the administration of the Jammu region.

A BJP insider said that the party leaders were of the view that since both the partners have almost an equal number of MLAs in the 87-member house, it was natural to demand an equal share in the new cabinet to be headed by PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.


"The BJP wants better share in governance to keep its boat on even keel vis-a-vis its vote bank in the Jammu region. We also want a free hand in general administration so far as the Jammu region is concerned," the source told IANS. The insider refused to be identified because the two sides were still negotiating the formation of the state government.

Mehbooba and BJP's Nirmal Singh, tipped to be her deputy, staked claim to power last week when they met Governor N.N. Vohra. Since then, there has been no major headway in government formation in the state that has been without an elected government since January when then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died in a Delhi hospital.

It is believed that the swearing-in of Mehbooba as the chief minister, and her council of ministers has been delayed because the two parties are still negotiating berth sharing.

In the previous ruling coalition that lasted for about 10 months, the PDP had 11 cabinet ministers while the BJP had eight. Both parties had three junior ministers each in the ministerial council.

The key portfolios of home, general administration, finance, education, law and parliamentary affairs, tourism, agriculture and revenue were with the PDP. The BJP had power development, social welfare, forest, public health engineering, industries and commerce and flood protection departments.

The PDP's number in the assembly has been reduced to 27 now from 28 when Sayeed was alive. It also enjoys the support of one independent candidate. The BJP has 25 but is supported by three more -- including two from the Peoples Conference, led by Sajad Lone, and an independent.


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