Mehbooba sacks Drabu over his remarks on Kashmir

13/03/2018

Srinagar, Mar 12: Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, one of the architects of the PDP-BJP alliance in the state, was today unceremoniously removed from the council of ministers by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti over his remarks that the Kashmir issue was not a political one, officials said.
The chief minister, who returned from the national capital to Jammu, shot off a letter to the state Governor N N Vohra requesting him to drop Drabu from her council of ministers with immediate effect, PDP sources said.
The Governor, after examining the letter, wrote back to the chief minister conveying his nod to her request to drop the 57-year-old Drabu from her council of ministers, officials said.
Since yesterday, pressure was mounting on Drabu, who played a key role in stitching an alliance with the BJP during Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's tenure earlier and again when Mehbooba Mufti became the chief minister, after newspapers published his remarks that people were "barking up the wrong tree" as the Kashmir issue was not a political issue.
"It (JK) is not a political issue as far as I can see. They have been barking up the wrong tree for the last 50 or 70 years by talking about the politics of it; that the political situation has never improved. We seriously need to look at in terms of how it is a society that is in search for itself," Drabu had said at an event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi on Friday.
Following the sudden development, the state cabinet meeting scheduled tomorrow was deferred by a week.
"JK State Cabinet meeting which was scheduled to be held tomorrow at 12.30 pm has been postponed. It will be now be held on 20, March, 2018 at 11 am," J&K's Department of Information and Public Relations tweeted.
With Drabu out of the finance ministry, the race for the coveted portfolio began with chief minister's trusted aide and Works Minister Naeem Akhtar and Education Minister Altaf Bukhari being seen as front-runners. Sources indicated that while Bukhari may land the job eventually, the chief minister might retain the finance portfolio for the time being.
The PDP had yesterday asked Drabu to retract his statement as it was against the party's stand.
"The party takes serious note of the statement made reportedly by Haseeb A Drabu in a function at New Delhi regarding the nature of problems in J-K and has asked the minister to retract the statement immediately if it has been reported correctly in the media," PDP vice-president Mohammad Sartaj Madni had said here.
"The party recognises Jammu and Kashmir as a political issue and ever since its emergence, the party has relentlessly been pursuing its resolution through reconciliation and dialogue - both at internal and external levels," he added.
Opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah joined the issue today saying it was interesting to see who gets the finance portfolio.
"His PHDCCI speech cost him dearly. Will be interesting to see who replaces him in the Finance Ministry," Omar said in a tweet.
However, BJP today termed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's decision to sack Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu from her Cabinet a "setback" to PDP-BJP alliance and said it would widen the gap between the two allies.
A top BJP leader praised Drabu's role in coordination between the two parties and said he was often the bridge between the Jammu and Kashmir government and the Centre over a host of issues.
"It is a setback to the alliance," the BJP leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. He also recalled that Drabu played an important role in the formulation of the GST.
Drabu was a key PDP pointsman in setting the contours of its alliance with the BJP in 2015.

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