Kashmir cabinet expansion: Congress to get eight more berths?

June 3rd, 2009 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, June 3 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is set to expand his 10-member ministerial council and according to sources, the ruling alliance partners - the Congress and the National Conference - may choose their veteran leaders to be included in the government.
Under the rules, the state government can have 25 ministers as per the strength of the 87-member assembly.

Congress sources said the party will get eight more ministerial berths - three of cabinet rank and five ministers of state (MOS) - in the expanded council.

The sources said the expansion will happen any day after June 8 when the by-election process for Srinagar’s Hazratbal constituency gets over.

“We have almost decided on the names of Raman Bhalla and Choudhary Mohammed Aslam,” a Congress leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Bhalla is the only candidate to get elected to the state assembly in November-December election from Hindu-dominated Jammu area defying the anti-incumbency and the Hindutva wave post Amarnath agitation. Aslam is a veteran Congress leader from the nomadic Gujjar community.

The third new Congress minister would be from Doda, most probably Mohammed Sharief Niaz, who won the Bhaderwah assembly by-poll from the seat vacated by his cousin and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The names of junior minister from the Congress are in the process of being short listed, the source said.

Sources in the National Conference said the party was still deciding on the probables to be inducted into the ministry. “So far, the name of Choudhary Mohammed Ramzan has been finalised,” a party source said. Ramzan, a former forest minister, is a National Conference veteran from north Kashmir.

The key coalition partners have also agreed to accommodate smaller groups who are supporting the government.

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