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Sonia gives Azad swearing-in a miss

By Onkar Singh in Srinagar
Last updated on: November 02, 2005 12:56 IST
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When Ghulam Nabi Azad takes the oath of office and secrecy as the first congress chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in the last thirty years, on Wednesday, party president Sonia Gandhi would not be among those present during the ceremony.

Speaking to, Ambika Soni, Congress general secretary, incharge of Jammu and Kashmir affairs, said it had never been announced that Sonia would go to Srinagar for the ceremony.

"Home Minister Shivraj Patil and myself would be attending the swearing-in ceremony on behalf of the party," she said.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, who after being elected as the leader of the Congress legislature party on October 30, had returned to Delhi to hold consultations with the Congress president and other party leaders.

The swearing-in ceremony is slated to be held at 5 PM at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre.

Azad is expected to be sworn-in along with eight to ten members of his cabinet.

People's Democratic Party has nominated Muzaffar Hussain Beig and two others, who would take the oath of office and secrecy along with Azad. Beig is expected to be made deputy chief minister.

Yusuf Tarigami, Communist Party of India (Marxist) member of the legislature, denied media reports that he was joining the cabinet.

"I am not joining the cabinet atleast on Wednesday. The proposal to join the ministry is under consideration of the party and a decision would be taken in due course," he said on phone.

Another aspirant for the cabinet post, assembly Speaker Tara Chand, who played a key role in the defiant attitude of the congress MLAs in Delhi last week, has so far not got any intimation about his joining the ministry.

"Till 10 AM on Wednesday morning, I have no information whatsoever whether I am going to be made a minister or not. If they were making me the minister, they would have asked me to resign as the speaker of the assembly," he said.

Former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma also seemed unhappy as he was being kept out of the congress-led government.

"I was told that I could either become the speaker or be appointed as the governor. I want to stay in touch with my electorate. I have sought an appointment in the organization rather then get posted as speaker, where I lose touch with my people," he said.

Though various names are in circulation but no one was willing to go on record whether or not his name had been included in the list of ministers.

Azad would be the first chief minister who would represent the Jammu region. Till now, only a person from the valley had been holding this post.

Fifty six-year-old Azad comes from Bhadarwa area of Doda, which falls under Jammu region of the state.

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Onkar Singh in Srinagar