Mehbooba drops Drabu from Cabinet for controversial remarks

FM removed without waiting for reply to Dis Comm

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 12: In a major political development, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today dropped her close and trusted lieutenant, Finance, Labour and Employment Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu from the Cabinet, in view of his “controversial remarks’’ made in New Delhi on March 9 at a PHDCCI function that Kashmir is not a political problem but a social issue.
“On a day of fast paced political development, Mehbooba, who also happens to be the president of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was reported to have spoken to some senior Ministers and party leaders including those, who were present at the function ‘Kashmir-The Way Forward’, organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, before writing to Governor NN Vohra to drop Drabu, who was one of the architects of PDP-BJP coalition and their Agenda of Alliance, from the Cabinet,’’ official sources told the Excelsior.

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The Governor has accepted recommendation of the Chief Minister to drop 57 years old Drabu, a PDP MLA from Rajpora in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, from the Council of Ministry.
The Chief Minister has kept the charge of Finance, Labour & Employment Departments with her. She is already holding the charge of Planning, Monitoring and Development Department, in addition to Home, General Administration, Information and Broadcasting, Hospitality and Protocol, Civil Aviation etc. The Finance Ministry was held by Drabu right from the formation of PDP-BJP coalition Government on March 1, 2015. The coalition had completed three years i.e. half of the term only 12 days back.
“In pursuance of Rule 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Business Rules, and consequent upon acceptance of the recommendations by the Governor in regard to dropping of Dr Haseeb A Drabu from the Council of Ministers, the portfolios of Finance, Labour & Employment Departments shall hence forth remain under my charge,” a Government order issued by the Chief Minister said.
Mehbooba didn’t attend the Civil Secretariat today and straightway drove to her official residence at Wazarat Road after returning here from New Delhi, where she reportedly got in touch with some of her senior Cabinet colleagues and party leaders before recommending to the Governor the decision to drop the Finance Minister, who had presented all four budgets of the first-ever PDP-BJP coalition Government, the last being on January 11 this year, from the Cabinet.
Drabu too didn’t attend the office today, sources said.
After Drabu’s statement that Kashmir is not just a political problem but a social issue snowballed into a major controversy yesterday with PDP’s Disciplinary Committee seeking explanation from him, the party asking him to retract the statement and various political parties and organizations including National Conference, Kashmir Chamber and some others strongly denouncing it, the Finance Minister had released verbatim of his speech, which said: “For, Kashmir is not just a political problem, but a social issue. Our society has been ravaged and we need to address that first. It is in this we seek your help’’.
Surprisingly, the PDP didn’t wait for Drabu’s reply despite being asked to do so by the Disciplinary Committee headed by Revenue Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri yesterday. The Disciplinary Committee had sought explanation from Drabu while PDP vice president Sartaj Madni had asked him to retract the statement.
Sources confirmed that Haseeb Drabu hadn’t yet replied to the explanation sought from the Disciplinary Committee. However, the Government decided to remove him from the Cabinet without waiting for his reply, they said. The verbatim of his speech released yesterday had clearly stated what Drabu had said that Kashmir is not just a political problem.
Drabu had been one of the architects of PDP-BJP alliance in 2015 after the Assembly elections delivered fractured mandate and became the Finance Minister when late PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed headed the coalition Government on March 1, 2015. After the death of Sayeed in January 2016, Drabu was retained as the Finance Minister by Mehbooba Mufti, who became the Chief Minister in April 2016. He was also the architect of PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance along with other PDP and BJP leaders.
Drabu had initiated a series of fiscal reforms and introduced fiscal discipline in the Finance Department during his tenure, which were widely acknowledged not only within the State but also by the Centre Government. He had introduced the concept of 70 per cent spending during first three quarters of financial year and 30 per cent in the last quarter to curb rush of last quarter especially the March spending to check irregularities and acts of omissions and commissions.
Drabu had present first budget of the PDP-BJP coalition within 20 days of formation of the Government. The budget presented by him on January 11, 2018 for 2018-19, was his fourth in succession.
During PDP-Congress coalition Government in 2002, then Chief Minister late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had appointed Drabu as Chief Economic Advisor of the Government. Subsequently, he also took over as the Chairman-cum-Chief Executive Officer of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, a post he held till 2010.
With Drabu’s ouster, strength of the PDP-BJP Council of Ministry has come down to 24. The PDP now has been left with 13 Ministers, 11 in the Cabinet rank (including the Chief Minister) and two Ministers of State while the BJP has 11 Ministers, eight in the Cabinet rank (including Sajjad Lone of People’s Conference) and three Ministers of State.
Reacting to Drabu’s ouster, National Conference working president and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah commented: “his PHDCCI speech cost him dearly. Will be interesting to see who replaces him in the Finance Ministry’’.
Another tweet by Omar said: “simply sacking the architect of the BJP-PDP Alliance and co-author of the Agenda of Alliance (AoA) will not redeem the PDP for the sins of last three years’’.