Sajad Lone to be sworn in as minister

Jammu: Sajad Gani Lone, former separatist leader and chief of the Peoples Conference, has reached here and will be sworn in as a minister in the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday, a source said.

"He received a call from the senior BJP leadership at the centre to reach to Jammu," a source close to Lone told IANS on phone from Srinagar.

The move came after he had flown from here to Srinagar after a last minute hitch over his inclusion in the council of ministers headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

But a top BJP source told IANS here that he was asked to rush back to Jammu late Saturday and that he will be inducted into the cabinet as a Bharatiya Janata Party nominee.

"He is being inducted into the state cabinet as a BJP nominee in the coalition government. Yes, there was some last minute disagreement over his inclusion in cabinet, but his inclusion has been cleared now," the top BJP source told IANS here.

The 25-member council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister-designate Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will be sworn in at 11 a.m. Sunday at the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium of the Jammu University.

Lone won the assembly election from north Kashmir Handwara seat in Kupwara district and his is party has two seats in the 87-member state legislative assembly .

During the Rajya Sabha election last month, Lone voted for the BJP candidates and also announced his support to the BJP for government formation in the state.

Sajad had ruffled many a feather last year when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he called "an elder brother".

Kashmiri separatist leaders had lashed out at Lone for joining the electoral process and for meeting Modi.

However, his meeting with Modi turned out to be his biggest electoral asset as he campaigned during elections promising development and employment to the voters in backward border district of Kupwara with the support of the prime minister.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP would have eight ministers each of the cabinet rank and the rest would be junior ministers.

As per sources in the two parties, Sayeed would hold portfolios of home and general administration. Other portfolios to be headed by the PDP ministers are tourism, roads and buildings, education, agriculture, revenue law and parliamentary affairs.

The BJP ministers will head power development, health and medical education, transport, irrigation and flood control.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP national president Amit Shah will attend the oath taking ceremony.

In the afternoon, Sayeed and Nirmal Singh will hold a press conference at the chief minister's residence on Wajarat Road here.

The two leaders will release the common minimum programme (CMP) of the ruling coalition at the media conference.

Sayeed will chair a meeting of the state cabinet Sunday afternoon.

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