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Independents not in Mufti sight

Jammu, Nov. 19: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is likely to expand his council of ministers early next month, but is unlikely to include any of the Independents in it, sources close to the chief minister said.

Mufti has numbers on his side — 16 members of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP), 20 of the Congress, four of the Panthers Party, two of the CPM and three from Ladakh region that brings the total of 45, more than the majority mark in the House.

In this scenario, he is expected to take in at least a dozen more faces from the PDP and his main coalition partners — the Congress, the CPM and, may be, the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party.

The sources said that Mufti hopes to be on a stable wicket with the ministers from the main parties.

The move will also solve the problem of keeping all the Independents in good humour. “If he decides to take one or two or even more Independents into the ministry, it could result in heartburn among his own MLAs and those of other coalition partners. Besides, this would leave other Independents unhappy,” the sources said, explaining Mufti’s apparent political strategy.

The Independents seem destined to cool their heels for a while as Mufti has kept his party and partners happy, and a shot at power with the National Conference seems remote.

Observers believe there is little chance of the nine Independents shifting loyalties to the main Opposition party. Most of the Independents have won on the anti-National Conference plank and, no doubt, harbour hopes of becoming ministers. The National Conference has only 28 MLAs and needs 16 others to reach the majority mark. So, even if they join hands with the Abdullahs, the party will fall short of the required number.

Mufti has appeased senior PDP leaders, Muzzaffar Hussain Beigh and Ghulam Hassan Mir, with the plum portfolios of finance and planning, and housing and urban development, reducing the chances of a PDP split. There are no chances of a revolt in the Congress legislature party.

Even-handed Mufti

Mufti has said his coalition government would do “justice” to people of all three regions of the state.

“Diversity of the state demands that all the regions — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — play an equal role,” Mufti said at a function here yesterday, reports PTI. “This is in tune with the spirit of the Gajendargadkar Commission report which has talked about equal role for every region in the affairs of the state,” he said.

Mufti said militancy in the state was destroying the “vitals” of the country. “Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is eating into the vitals of the nation,” he said, adding that he would seek the help of the entire country in meeting the challenges posed by it.

Deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma emphasised the necessity for taking bold steps to initiate the process of peace and normality in the state and hoped people would appreciate the “spirit” behind the government’s decision to free several political prisoners.

He said the steps, taken with a “sincerity of purpose”, should not be painted in black and asserted that everybody in the government was conscious of his responsibility.

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