Cabinet reshuffle today; Kavinder could be new Dy CM
Jammu, Apr 29: The much awaited reshuffle in the council of ministry headed by CM Mehbooba Mufti is finally taking place on Monday at Jammu Convention Centre. A highly-placed source in BJP said that the reshuffle will see some major changes made in the list of the party ministers, who are part of the Cabinet in this PDP-BJP coalition government. The source said that the state is likely to get a new Deputy Chief Minister as the current Speaker Kavinder Gupta is expected to change seats with Nirmal Singh. “Kavinder has been on the list of people expected. Recently, he has been prominently taking part in touring several developmental works in various Jammu parts,” the source added. The swearing-in of new Ministers by the Governor is scheduled to be held at noon at the Convention Centre instead of Raj Bhavan as all government offices in Jammu have shut down on Saturday ahead of a six-month sojourn in summer capital Srinagar. Among other likely changes in the cabinet, the source said, could be dropping of Minister for Health & Medical Education, Bali Bhagat and Minister of State for Education, Technical Education, Tourism and Culture, Priya Sethi. Also to be likely inducted in the State Cabinet, as per the source, is BJP state president Sat Sharma. “He has been lobbying for induction into the state cabinet for a while,” the source added. BJP’s junior Minister Sunil Sharma too is likely to be elevated to Cabinet rank. The final list, the source continued, has been prepared after detailed consultation with BJP national president Amit Shah and party general secretary, Ram Madhav. To mention, the two vacancies in the BJP quota had arisen due to resignations of Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh and Industry and Commerce Minister Chander Prakash Ganga early this month after they were massively criticised for taking part in a pro-accused rally in the backdrop of rape and murder of an eight year old Bakerwal girl from Kathua. Peoples Democratic Party sources said that no new faces from the party will be inducted in the Council of Ministers. One ministerial berth that fell vacant after the dropping of then Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu from the Council of Ministers will not be filled by the ruling party now. The source, however, did not rule out minor reallocation of portfolios among the PDP Ministers. The other names doing the rounds for ministerial berths include Sukhnandan Choudhary, Shakti Parihar, Rajesh Jasrota, and Ravinder Raina. Presently, there were 22 Ministers in the State including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as against maximum prescribed strength of 25. Of three vacancies, two belonged to BJP and one to PDP. The PDP vacancy had arisen due to unceremonious removal of Dr Haseeb Drabu, the then Finance Minister, due to his remarks on Kashmir situation. As per the PDP-BJP agreement, PDP can have 14 Ministers and BJP 11. Presently PDP has 13 and BJP eight. Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Ghani Lone belonged to the People’s Conference, a BJP ally. In connection to the reshuffle, Chief Secretary, B.B Vyas Sunday chaired a meeting at Convention Centre to finalize the arrangements for the oath taking ceremony. The meeting discussed the arrangements related to seating capacity, security, traffic regulation, Public Address System, sanitation, decoration, power supply and drinking water supply. The Chief Secretary directed the security agencies to ensure fool proof security arrangements in and around the venue. He further asked for identifying sufficient space for the parking of vehicles to avoid traffic jam.