JAMMU: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was sworn in as the chief minister of Indian-held Kashmir on Sunday, credited Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders for the successful elections in the disputed Himalayan state.
“Pakistan, [All Parties] Hurriyat [Conference] leaders allowed conducive atmosphere for the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir,” the chief minister said in his first press conference after assuming office. The 79-year-old veteran leader drew sharp criticism for his statement from all quarters, including coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Earlier India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party was sworn into government for the first time in Kashmir after a power-sharing deal with Mufti Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The BJP and PDP have forged a coalition government after inconclusive elections two months ago for the state assembly.
Under the power-sharing agreement, PDP will have 14 and BJP nine ministers in the council of ministers. One independent will also be given representation in the council. BJP’s Nirmal Singh will take charge as Sayeed’s deputy in a bid to placate Hindu nationalists in New Delhi.
Sayeed was sworn in as chief minister of the region, where a sporadic revolt against Indian rule has been waged since 1989. In a symbolic gesture Sayeed enthusiastically embraced Modi, who was on stage to witness the historic ceremony.
“This is a great day. No one in their wildest dreams ever thought of this,” PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said after the ceremony in the region’s winter capital of Jammu. The inauguration, held amid tight security at the University of Jammu, came after weeks of intense negotiations between the two parties which disagree on several critical issues in the region.
Sayeed has described the alliance as the “coming together of the North Pole and the South Pole” while the BJP has hailed the move as a ‘miracle of democracy’.
The negotiations followed December elections that saw the BJP capture 25 seats mainly in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, while the PDP took 28, mostly in the Kashmir valley. But both failed to secure a majority to the 87-seat assembly, forcing the negotiations.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2015.