Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: A day after Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad rejected Housing and Urban Development Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal’s resignation, the latter shot off another letter to him seeking clarification on the issue as to why his party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), leadership was not taken into confidence before he was stripped of the Forest portfolio.

In response to the letter that Mr. Azad had sent to him on Tuesday night , Mr. Afzal said, “I wish to emphasise that your letter has side-stepped the basic and crucial issue raised by me in my communication yesterday [Tuesday]. I had specifically stated that I was resigning over the all important issue of violation of coalition dharma, in arbitrarily taking away the Forest portfolio from me without the mandatory consultation with the leadership of my party. Your reply is silent on this crucial issue. Therefore, the situation, according to me remains the same.”

In the two page letter Mr. Afzal thanked Mr. Azad for reiterating his trust in him as a Minister but said that he was bound by party discipline and could not withdraw his resignation till his party leadership was taken into confidence on the issue.

Mr. Afzal who was stripped of the Forest portfolio on Sunday said that an orchestrated media campaign to malign him and his predecessor Tariq Hamid Qarra, currently the Finance Minister, was being unleashed by vested interests.

He also mentioned that he refused to give permission to the setting up of an amusement park and a housing colony in Jammu which was in violation of standing rules and norms.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti accused Mr. Azad of violating coalition dharma though the Chief Minister said that Mr. Afzal had agreed to the action.

“The Chief Minister has violated the coalition dharma by taking away the Forest portfolio from Qazi Mohammad Afzal without consulting the PDP high command,” she told The Hindu adding that in the coalition agreement an ally has to be consulted before any action was taken against a Minister.

“How can Qazi Saheb be fit for one ministry and unfit for another I wonder.”

Ms. Mufti said “the ball is in the court of the Chief Minister and he should talk to the PDP high command to repair the damage caused to the coalition.”

In a letter to Mr. Afzal , the Chief Minister denied Mr. Afzal’s charge that he was not taken into confidence before the portfolio was taken away from him.