Sayeed is CM again, BJP shares power in Kashmir

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Jammu: PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Sunday took oath as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, heading a coalition government that brought the BJP to power for the first time in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and party leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi witnessed the ceremony, more than two months after elections produced a hung verdict giving the PDP and the BJP 28 and 25 seats respectively.

Son of a religious preacher from the Kashmir Valley, Sayeed will head the government of his Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and will be the chief minister for the entire six years.

Senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh was sworn in as the deputy chief minister.

Former separatist leader Sajad Gani Lone, whose Peoples Conference has come out in support of the BJP, also took oath, and then hugged both Modi and Sayeed, triggering applause at the Jammu University auditorium.

Inclusive of the chief minister, the PDP will have 11 cabinet berths and the BJP six, including Lone. The PDP and BJP have three and five junior ministers respectively.

This is the second time Sayeed will head a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. He took power in 2002, heading a PDP-Congress alliance, for a three-year term.

Lone’s inclusion in the cabinet followed an apparent last-minute hitch, a BJP source said, without giving details.

According to sources in the two parties, Sayeed would hold the portfolios of home and general administration.

PDP ministers will also oversee tourism, roads and buildings, education, agriculture, revenue law and parliamentary affairs.

BJP ministers will head the ministries of power, health and medical education, transport, irrigation and flood control.

Sayeed and Nirmal Singh are set to release a common minimum programme of the ruling coalition later Sunday.

The Kashmir verdict brought about a clear divide between the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, with the PDP winning almost all its seats from the valley and the BJP virtually sweeping Jammu.

Even as it became clear that the BJP and the PDP would have to team up to form a government, their negotiations became protracted because of the two parties’ known differences over some vital issues.

This is the first time the BJP is tasting power in Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state where a separatist campaign which has raged since 1989 has left thousands dead.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and funding the separatists.

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