Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, one of the architects of the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in the state, was unceremoniously sacked from the council of ministers by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday over his remarks that the Kashmir issue was not a political issue, sources 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, the PDP sources said.
Since Sunday, 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 one.
“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 to be held on Tuesday has been 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 the 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 keep the finance portfolio with her for the time being.
The PDP had on Sunday 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 also joined the issue on Monday 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.