Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday fired her high-profile Minister for Finance Haseeb Drabu after he failed to either retract his controversial statement or respond to a disciplinary notice from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Over the last two days, Drabu landed in a whirlpool of rebuke, not only from the mainstream and the separatist opposition but also his own party over a controversial statement he reportedly made at a political and corporate conference in New Delhi. According to the PTI copy, carried by many of the national and regional newspapers, Drabu said at the conclave of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry that Kashmir should not be seen as a political problem.
Drabu at the conference claimed that Kashmir was a “social problem” and the country had barked up the wrong tree in the last 70 years. It immediately ruffled feathers in all the Valley-based political parties and the key position party National Conference raised serious questions over PDP’s “volte face”, calling it “surrender for power” before BJP. It was widely pointed out that the campaign for recognising Kashmir as a political problem was PDP’s political Bible and mark of identification since its raising day in 1999.
Rather than confronting with the opposition, PDP chose to publicly call an explanation from Drabu and, before waiting for his response, asked him to retract his statement if he had said that Kashmir was a social and not a political issue. While as the PDP’s Vice President Sartaj Madni issued a lengthy statement as a part of the party’s damage control exercise, head of the disciplinary panel Abdul Rehman Veeri sought an explanation from the Minister under cloud.
Even as Drabu neither retracted his statement nor submitted any explanation, PDP held an emergency meeting of its top brass at Chief Minister’s residence. Sources present in the meeting revealed to STATE TIMES that a tape of Drabu’s purported speech was played. It was unanimously observed that Drabu had not only exceeded his party brief but also done “whitewash” of PDP’s political ideology spread over the last 19 years of its history.
Immediately after the meeting concluded, Chief Minister called Chief Secretary Bharat Vyas and directed him to communicate to Raj Bhawan that the head of the government had decided to drop Haseeb Drabu from her Council of Ministers. Governor was requested to accord approval to CM’s decision. In about two hours, Raj Bhawan communicated to Chief Minister’s Secretariat that Governor had acceded to the proposal of terminating Drabu as Minister.
Later in the evening, Government issued a public notification which said that Drabu’s departments of Finance, Labour and Employment would be retained by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. There were speculations in the corridors of power that the Finance portfolio could be assigned to Minister for Education Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari.
Unconfirmed reports this evening said that Drabu drove to Chief Minister’s residence for a meeting. However, it was not clear if any meeting took place between the unceremoniously removed Minister and the Chief Minister.
Drabu’s expulsion from Council of Ministers is likely to lead to a reshuffle of portfolios before Darbar Move in April.
Good luck and bad luck have both chased Drabu since the day PDP-Congress government appointed him as Economic Advisor to the Government and subsequently Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank. He was replaced as Economic Advisor by retired bureaucrat Jaleel Ahmad Khan immediately after Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition took over in 2009.
In August 2010, he was unceremoniously removed and replaced as Chairman of J&K Bank by Mushtaq Ahmad. Strained relations between Drabu and then Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather are known to have led to Drabu’s ouster. In 2014, he joined PDP and got the party’s ticket to contest Assembly elections from Rajpora constituency of Pulwama district. As PDP retained all the six seats in Pulwama and Shopian districts, Drabu was inducted by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Minister for Finance in March 2015. He is also co-author of the Agenda of Alliance of the PDP-BJP coalition, along with Ram Madhav.
When Mehbooba constituted new Council of Ministers after her father’s death in April 2016, Drabu was again inducted as Minister for Finance.
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