SRINAGAR — Former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has claimed that the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed misused his “generosity” to become chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 2002.
In his book, Azad, An Autobiography, the former CM said that he offered Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to be part of the government when he (Azad) had a letter of support from 42 MLAs to become CM. “With the letter of support of 42 MLAs in my hand, I telephoned the governor, and he invited me the following day to discuss the date of oath-taking. I informed Sonia ji about the developments over the telephone. She was happy to hear that I was now taking charge of government formation,” Azad claims.
“A few hours before the meeting with the governor, around 8.00 am, I was in the balcony of my room of Hotel Broadway in Srinagar, having tea with Ashok Bhan, a friend, Congressman and lawyer of the Supreme Court, when a thought occurred to me. Perhaps it was driven by emotion. I told Bhan that I should ask Mufti’s party to join the government. I had a long family association with him, which I had maintained even after his split with Congress. Though I did not need his backing to form the government, I believed that with him on board, the government would be even more stable and could perform better. Besides, he had been a Congressman, and his MLAs could be co-opted in the government,” the former CM claims.
Azad further says Mufti made him wait, saying he needs 3-4 days to think over the proposal. “I telephoned Mufti and informed him that I would be meeting the governor at 11.00 a.m. I suggested that his party could be part of the government and asked him to give me the names of five to six MLAs of his party who could be accommodated as ministers. He said that it was a good idea and immediately invited me for breakfast, saying that I could go to the Raj Bhavan after having breakfast with him; I readily agreed. I had breakfast with him at his residence and repeated my offer. He heard me out and said that he wanted three–four days to think it over. He suggested that I better defer my meeting with the governor until then,” Azad says.
The former CM claims that he trusted Mufti and didn’t spot his deviousness.“I should have seen through his game plan then and gone ahead with the oath-taking; after all, his party could have joined the government later. But I trusted him implicitly and did not spot his deviousness. How was I to know that he would throw our personal relations to the wind and misuse my generosity! I met the governor and briefed him about my talks with Mufti that morning, also informing him that I would get back to him after three–four days,” the former CM writes.
He said Mufti confirmed his participation in his government when he and Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, met him in Srinagar. “I returned to Delhi and narrated the whole story to Sonia ji. It was decided that Dr Manmohan Singh, then the LoP in the Rajya Sabha, and I would fly to Srinagar and meet the PDP leader to firm up his party’s inclusion in the government. The following day, Dr Singh and I went to Srinagar and had lunch with Mufti, during which he confirmed his party’s participation in the government,” he adds.
According to Azad, Mufti got up in an agitated state during the meeting called by Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi for announcing the alliance when he was asked to give names of 5-6 names from his party who could be accommodated as ministers.
“Thereafter, Sonia ji invited Mufti to Delhi for the final announcement of the alliance. I, too, was present at the meeting. Mufti thanked the Congress president and me for agreeing to his party’s participation in the government. But when he was asked for names from his party who could be part of my government, he suddenly got up in an agitated state and exclaimed, ‘I thought that I had been invited to be the chief minister!’ Sonia ji and I were aghast and said that no such indication or assurance had been given from our side at any point of time. Mufti nearly shouted back that he had been called to Delhi to be insulted. ‘Why was I called? I could have been informed over the telephone.’ It was clear that he wanted to hijack the government,” Azad says.
He writes that he himself intervened and requested Sonia Gandhi that a power-sharing arrangement could be worked by which he would be CM for the first three years and Mufti for the next three years.
“When matters seemed to be going out of hand, I intervened and requested Sonia ji that an arrangement could be worked out by which I would be CM for the first three years and Mufti could take over for the next three years (then the J&K government’s term was of six years). This way, everyone would be happy. However, Mufti, having got a toehold, now wanted full entry through the door. He insisted on being the CM for the first three years. Sonia ji was in no mood to relent. Again, I requested her that in the larger interest of the state, we should agree to his demand. That is how Mufti, whose party had come third in the elections, with just 16 MLAs, became the CM, while I, despite having the support of 42 MLAs, had to return to national politics,” he says.
In the 2002 elections, National Conference won 28 seats, Congress 20 seats, and Peoples Democratic Party 16 seats. — (KNO)