In Mehbooba’s balancing act in the family, Sajjad Mufti likely to get MoS status
Upset with Sartaj’s importance, ex-DFO Sajjad deserted Valley, lived in Jammu for 3 months, applied for his reinstatement in Forest service before being mollified by Mehbooba
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: Caught between the political ambitions of her maternal and paternal uncles, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is likely to do a balancing act by elevating cousin Sajjad Mufti to the status of a Minister of State (MoS) while inducting at least four contenders – two each from PDP and BJP- as Chairpersons of different corporations and Public Sector Undertakings in near future.
If sources in the top echelons of the coalition government are to be believed, Sajjad and three others could be inducted as Chairpersons of the four corporations, boards and PSUs before the year end. He is the son of late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s brother, Mufti Mohammad Amin.
Inducted into the Indian Forest Service (IFS), former Kashmir Forest Service officer Sajjad Mufti was serving as Regional Director of the State Pollution Control Board in the end of the year 2014 when he sought retirement from service. As President of PDP, Mehbooba appointed him as the party’s ‘Coordinator’ for South Kashmir.
Not satisfied with his status and job profile, and to a considerable level sidelined by Mehbooba’s maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, earlier this year Sajjad deserted his home in Bijbehara and lived in Jammu for over three months. According to the family sources, he severed liaison with the party and lived incommunicado. One day, he is said to have applied for his reinstatement as an officer of the rank of (incharge) Conservator of Forest. Even after a year of his being in active politics, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has not accepted Sajjad’s resignation till date. According to some reports, Sajjad grew close to the party’s MPs, Tariq Hamid Karra and Muzaffar Hussain Baig, adding a tinge of rebellion to his short political profile.
Finally, Mehbooba drove all the way to Sajjad’s residence in Jammu and mollified him with the assurance that he would be inducted as MoS in her government “within the current year”. Sources in the government revealed to STATE TIMES that rather than straightaway inducting him into the Council of Ministers, which has two berths vacant, Chief Minister planned to appoint her cousin as Chairman of a corporation with the status of MoS. After Mehbooba’s assurance, Sajjad has been shuttling between Srinagar and Jammu, though he has not activated himself as the PDP’s Coordinator for South Kashmir.
“He has the privilege of being the CM’s cousin but he is still a fresh entrant and has never contested an election. It would be difficult for her to pick up her family member for a vacancy of the MLC as eminent leaders and two-time MLAs, besides some ex-Ministers, are all in the queue for accommodation and rehabilitation”, said a senior PDP leader.
Forest Secretary Mohammad Afzal Bhat confirmed that Government of India had not till date accepted Sajjad’s resignation from IFS. He, however, asserted that he had no knowledge of the former DFO having withdrawn his resignation or seeking reinstatement. “We have forwarded his resignation to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest. Till date we have not received any communication of its acceptance or rejection by the Centre”, Bhat told STATE TIMES.
Sajjad, according to sources, has grown miffed with the superiority and importance the CM’s maternal uncle has got in the family, the party and the government. He was not reachable for comment but sources close to him said that Sajjad was disappointed over the way Ministers had ignored his references and recommendations.
On the other hand, the Ministers were generously accommodating Sartaj’s men in everything from transfers and appointments to allotment of works. He is said to have managed transfers of a number of Executive Engineers and AEEs in R&B Department though Minister incharge and MLA of Bijbehara Abdul Rehman Veeri. Sartaj, who lost to the Congress candidate Mohammad Amin Bhat in his Devsar constituency in the Assembly elections of 2014, has advantage of age and experience over Sajjad. He has served twice as PDP’s MLA, one term as Deputy Speaker of Assembly and, unlike Sajjad, has a regular constituency. Besides, he has been late Mufti Sayeed’s confidante and close associate in politics with him for the last over 30 years. Even his strong supporter and sister, Gulshan Mufti (Mufti’s wife), has influenced politics within the family. In 1996, she contested Assembly elections on Congress ticket from Pahalgam but lost to National Conference.
Contrary to a many speculations, Sartaj was not inducted by Mufti Sayeed or Mehbooba as MLC and Chairman of Legislative Council. Mehbooba, however, appointed him as PDP’s General Secretary number one for entire State, others being Nizamuddin Bhat and Mehboob Iqbal for restricted areas.