India's Modi to appoint Kashmiri leader to executive council: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2015 5:48 AM

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to expand his council of ministers to include a key leader from the restive Kashmir region, sources said, as he looks to win the support of allies to push economic reforms through parliament.

Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of Jammu and Kashmir state's chief minister and president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which governs in the region alongside Modi's party, will be inducted into the 65-member council, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Modi is expected to announce the changes - his second reshuffle of the executive body since he stormed to power last May - before he departs for an overseas trip on April 8, the sources said.

His Bharatiya Janata Party made history in February when it formed a surprise coalition in Jammu and Kashmir with the PDP, the first time the Hindu nationalist party has had a role in governing the Muslim-majority state that is the center of a long-running revolt against Indian rule.

The PDP's decision last month to release from prison a leading figure in that revolt angered opposition politicians and embarrassed Modi just as he is struggling to get key pieces of his economic reform agenda passed in parliament.

That includes a controversial bill to change land acquisition rules, which has been held up in the upper house where Modi's party lacks a majority.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and the nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two wars over the contested region since 1947.

Unlike Modi's party, the PDP supports self-rule for the region.

Among several other expected changes to the council, Modi will also induct a representative from the Shiv Sena party, the BJP's coalition partner in the populous state of Maharashtra, one of the sources said.

(Reporting by Nigam Prusty and Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Richard Borsuk)