In a major reshuffle of his four-year-old ministry, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today brought in seven new faces from his National Conference (NC) that included state Assembly speaker Mohammed Akbar Lone, while Congress made one change.
At a function in Raj Bhavan, Governor NN Vohra administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr Lone, Chowdhury Mohammed Ramzan, Mir Saifullah and Ajay Sadotra after Mr Abdullah secured the resignation of all ministers belonging to NC.
Mr Lone (Sonawari) has often been in the thick of controversy over repeated verbal duels with opposition PDP. Mr Ramzan and Mir are MLAs from Handwara and Kupwara respectively while Mr Sadotra is an MLC from Jammu.
Resignation of close aides of the Chief Minister including Minister of State for Home and Tourism Nasir Aslam Wani and his political advisor Davinder Singh Rana were accepted in a move suggesting that the two could be drafted for party work ahead of Assembly elections due in the end of 2014.
This is the first reshuffle carried out by Omar after he was sworn-in as Chief Minister on January 5, 2009.
The other legislators sworn in as ministers from NC were Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo (Kishtwar), Feroz Ahmed (Zanaskar) and Nazir Ahmed Khan (Gurez).
After hectic discussions that Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and state PCC Chief Saif-ud-din Soz had with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the party carried out one change by dropping Technical Education and Youth and Sports Affairs Minister RS Chib.
Ghulam Ahmed Mir, a Congress MLA from Dooru in South Kashmir, staged a comeback after he was discharged of all the charges by a CBI court in connection with the 2006 sex scandal as all the prosecution witnesses turned hostile.
Two more Congress MLAs Vikar Rasool Wani (Banihal) and Abdul Majid Wani (Doda) were also sworn in.