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With 13 New Faces, Omar’s Cabinet Goes Lopsided
No representation from 9 distts, 22 Ministers drawn from 12 distts
7/12/2009 12:28:51 AM
Bhalla, Chib, Akhoon, Malik, Agha, Hassan Mir, Saroori, Sakina in Cabinet
Independent Charge for Ajaz, Manohar; Shabir, Javed, Nasir Sogami Ministers of State

ZAFAR CHOUDHARY
Srinagar, July 11: The six-month old coalition ministry of National Conference and Congress headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was expanded this afternoon with induction of 13 new faces –eight Cabinet Ministers, two Ministers of State with Independent Charge and three Ministers of State. Governor NN Vohra administered the oath of office and secrecy to new Ministers at a simple ceremony held at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Center. The Chief Minister later in the evening chaired an informed meeting of his Cabinet.
Prominent dignitaries present on the occasion were National Conference president and Union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, Congress General Secretary (incharge Jammu and Kashmir affairs) and MoS in Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan, PCC president Prof Saifuddin and opposition PDP president Mehbooba Mufti while conspicuous by his absence was senior Congress leader and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Among the 13 Ministers who took oath today, senior Congress leader and Member of Legislative Council Rajinder Singh Chib was a surprise face even as exclusion was Congress Legislature Party leader (who later resigned in protest) Choudhary Mohammad Aslam was a shock. Sakina Ittoo is the lone Woman Minister while Agha Roohullah, 32, is the youngest ever Cabinet Minister.
The Council of Ministers in Jammu and Kashmir has a maximum strength of 25 and with today’s expansion the number has reached 23. Two seats have been kept vacant for a future expansion. As many as nine of total 22 districts have gone unrepresented in the Omar Abdullah Ministry. There is no Minister from districts of Poonch, Ramban, Udhampur, Doda, Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam, Bandipore, Kupwara. Maximum Ministers are drawn from districts of Srinagar, Badgam, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Reasi and Jammu.
National Conference MLA from Kargil Qamar Ali Akhoon was the first take oath of Cabinet Minister. Akhoon has remained a Minister of State in Farooq Abdullah Government in 1996-2002. He has also remained Chairman of the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council.
Akhoon was followed by Rajinder Singh, a senior leader of the Congress and presently Member of Legislative Council. Chib has earlier also remained a Cabinet Minister in the coalition government of National Conference and Congress in 1987.
Another Minister from Congress quota was Ghulam Hassan Mir who is chairman of his party Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party. Mir was a Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Cabinet till 2005. He broke away from PDP the next year and last year launched his own party. He is the lone MLA of his party. Representing Tangmarg constituency in Baramulla district, Mir was also a Minister in GM Shah Cabinet in 1984 after breaking away from National Conference.
Sakina Ittoo again returned as the only woman Minister. Representing Noorabad constituency in South Kashmir district of Anantnag, Ittoo was a Minister of State with independent charge in the Farooq Abdullah government in1996-2002. Her father and senior National Conference leader Wali Mohammad Ittoo had remained Deputy Speaker of the Assembly was assassinated by militants in Jammu during early days of militancy.
Gandhi Nagar MLA Raman Bhalla also took oath of Cabinet Minister. The senior Congress leader, Bhalla was a Minister of State in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government till 2005.
Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, who took oath of Cabinet Minister, is the only representative in Omar’s government from three districts of erstwhile Doda. The Congress has five out of six seats in three districts. Saroori was also a surprise face as expectations were high for Mohammad Sharief Niaz and Abdul Majid Wani from the Congress quota. Saroori, MLA from Inderwal constituency in Kishtwar, has also remained a Minister of State in Mufti Government.
MLA Gulabgarh Abdul Ghani Malik was sworn in as Cabinet Minister. A National Conference leader, he has won assembly elections three times in row.
Agha Syed Roohullah Mehdi today created history by becoming Cabinet Minister ever in Jammu and Kashmir. 32 years old Shia leader from Badgam district has won election from Badgam constituency twice.
Congress MLA from Gool Arnas Choudhary Ajaz Ahmed Khan and another Congress MLA from Baillawar Dr Manohar Lal Sharma were sworn in Ministers of State with Independent Charge. Ajaz and Manohar has won elections twice and the former was a Minister of State both in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad cabinets.
Congress MLA from Rajouri Shabir Ahmed Khan, National Conference MLAs from Amirakadal and Rafiabad, respectively, Nasir Aslam Wani (Sogami) and Javed Ahmed Dar were sworn in as Ministers of State. All three are first timers in the Legislative Assembly.
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