J&K Cong 'unites' to wrest back Cabinet portfolios

Wants partner National Conference to surrender public works, school education

The faction-ridden Congress in Jammu and Kashmir plans to put up a united face to demand the return of two portfolios from its ally National Conference.

The two portfolios — public works department and school education — were allocated to Congress ministers when the coalition government came to power three years ago. But both portfolios are now under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who belongs to National Conference. 

“The time has come for us to say that enough is enough. The party must stand united and fight the onslaught of National Conference. We won’t allow anybody to take us for granted,” said a senior Congress minister.

Congress leader Mohan Prakash will reach Kashmir on Saturday to work out a strategy, a party source said. All Congress legislators and leaders will meet to assert that the party is an equal partner in the state government. The Congress will demand the CM to return the portfolios to Congress ministers immediately through a cabinet reshuffle or by any other way, party sources said.

“The Congress in J&K has a long history of infighting among its ministers and leaders, and it is divided into three camps — supporters of Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, supporters of senior leader Saifuddin Soz and those who support Taj Mohi-ud-Din,” said Congress leader Ahmad Patel in New Delhi. Congress leaders say the infighting is working to the advantage of National Conference. 

“We have bridged our gaps,” said a senior party legislator.

When the coalition government came to power in J&K, it was decided that the Congress will have portfolios such as power, public works, school education, tourism, health, medical education, agriculture and horticulture. “But one by one our portfolios are going to National Conference. We were left with no option but to wait and watch,” the legislator added.

In 2010, the public works department portfolio was taken over by Abdullah following the sacking of Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, whose daughter was alleged to have used an impersonator in a medical entrance test. School education minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed was divested of his portfolio after a police inquiry on the orders of Abdullah. It was found that his son had allegedly used unfair means to pass Class 10 in 2009.

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