BJP supports Mehbooba as CM, picks Nirmal as deputy

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Jammu, March 25 (IANS) The BJP on Friday pledged support to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to form a new government under Mehbooba Mufti’s leadership in Jammu and Kashmir, paving the way for her to be the first woman chief minister of India’s only Muslim-majority state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also elected Nirmal Singh as its leader in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and nominated him for the deputy chief minister’s post in the new PDP-BJP alliance government to be formed soon. Mehbooba was on Thursday elected the leader of PDP’s legislature party.

A BJP-PDP joint coordination committee is expected to meet before the two leaders meet Governor N.N. Vohra together to stake claim to power in the state that has been without an elected government for the last nearly three months. The two parties were scheduled to meet the governor separately on Friday. But the meetings didn’t happen.

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Leaders of the BJP and PDP “will have a meeting between ourselves before going to meet the governor”, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav told reporters here. “When they go to meet the governor will be decided.”

Ram Madhav, who is also BJP’s Kashmir affairs in charge, was speaking after party legislators met here to elect their leader.

“The BJP legislature party has re-elected Nirmal Singh as its leader and nominated him for the deputy chief minister’s post in the new coalition government,” BJP state president Sat Pal Sharma said.

Sharma also said the BJP had decided to extend support to Mehbooba, daughter of former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, to head the PDP-BJP government in the state. “We have to discuss certain issues before both of us visit the governor together to stake claim.”

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He said that it may take “two-three days” before the government is formed. If and when the swearing-in happens, Mehbooba Mufti will be the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

Nirmal Singh also served as the deputy chief minister in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP-BJP coalition that was in office for 10 months till Sayeed died on January 7. The state has been under Governor’s Rule since January 8.

Besides the BJP legislators and Ram Madhav, Jitendra Singh, the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, also attended the party meeting in Jammu.

Informed sources said those at the meeting were apprised by Ram Madhav about the recent developments, including the Tuesday meeting in New Delhi between PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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“The BJP reiterated that no fresh conditions (by PDP) had been accepted and the alliance with the PDP will continue on the basis of the agenda of alliance signed (earlier) by the two parties,” a BJP source told IANS.

Jitendra Singh represents the Kathua-Udhampur Lok Sabha seat for the BJP in the Lok Sabha.

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