Jammu: PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, who has stepped into the shoes of her late father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, was on Monday sworn-in as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir heading the coalition government with BJP after dropping two of her party leaders.
BJP, which got two of its leaders promoted to cabinet rank, retained Nirmal Singh as Deputy Chief Minister, a post he held under Sayeed who died on January 7.
Dressed in black, 56-year-old Mehbooba, who is still a member of Lok Sabha, took the oath of office and secrecy in Urdu.
The assumption of Chief Minister's office by Mehbooba, who floated PDP in 1999, assumes significance as she will be the first woman chief minister in the Muslim majority state. She is the 13th Chief Minister of the state and second Muslim woman to become the Chief Minister of any state in India.
Syeda Anwara Taimur was the first Muslim woman CM in Assam in 1980 and continued to hold the chair till June 30, 1981.
Governor NN Vohra also administered the oath to 21 other Ministers. BJP's share increased this time in the Cabinet from six to eight berths and three Ministers of State (MoS) while PDP has nine Cabinet Ministers instead of 11 last time.
Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu, Jitendra Singh (both BJP) and Harsimrat Kaur (Akali Dal) were among the host of VIPs present at the function held in Raj Bhavan. The Union ministers arrived late even as the function was in progress.
Earlier in the day, the Governor's rule that was imposed 86 days ago in the wake of uncertainty following Sayeed's death was lifted to enable popular government to be sworn-in.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his best wishes to the new government and hoped it will fulfil the dreams and aspirations of people of the state.
"Congratulations & best wishes to Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, Dr. Nirmal Singh & all those who took oath today," he tweeted.
"May the new Government of J&K leave no stone unturned in fulfilling dreams & aspirations of the people & take J&K to new heights of progress," he said.
PDP, which has 27 MLAs, dropped Syed Altaf Bukhari and Javed Mustafa as cabinet ministers while replaced Minister of State Mohammed Ashraf Mir, giant-killer as he defeated former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, with Farooq Andrabi and Abdul Majid Paddar with Zahoor Mir.
While there was no official word from the PDP, sources claimed that Bukhari was dropped in the wake of reports that he along with some other PDP MLAs were planning a political coup during the interregnum.
Sajjad Gani Lone, son of late separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, retained his cabinet berth in the BJP quota.
Within minutes of the swearing-in ceremony, rumblings started within the PDP with its Lok Sabha Member from Srinagar seat Tariq Hamid Karra openly criticising the composition of ministerial team.
"I have boycotted the swearing-in-ceremony. During the discussion on finalisation of council of ministers, I had certain reservations (over the induction of three PDP MLAs- Altaf Bukhari, Naeem Akhter and Haseeb Drabu) which I had put before the party chief in the first meeting in Srinagar", Karra said in Srinagar.
He claimed that the trio was responsible for Sayeed government's failures. "You are sending a message that you are rewarding the collaborators who had tried to engineer a coup against you. The message will be wrong," Karra said, adding she is keeping "snakes up her sleeves".
On its part, the 25-member BJP dropped Sukhnandan from the cabinet and replaced him with Prakash Kumar. Similarly, Minister of State Pawan Gupta, backed by BJP, was replaced with Ajay Nanda.
Gupta, an independent MLA from Udhampur, was Minister of State for Finance and Information and Technology.
"I will continue to work for development of my constituency and my support to the ruling alliance will be now issued-based," Gupta said, adding he will perform the role of a watchdog in the assembly.
A bitter Gupta said that BJP should have had the grace of "informing me in advance that my services are not required. Anyways, in any case I think it was right time for me to move out."
Besides Kumar, the saffron party promoted Chering Dorje and Abdul Gani Kohli as the new Cabinet ministers. They were Minister of State with Independent charge in previous ministries.
Law Minister in the Sayeed's ministry, Basharat Bukhari of PDP, took oath in Kashmiri again this year.