J&K BJP Ministers Resign For Cabinet Reshuffle
April 18th, 2018
Image Credits: Mehbooba Mufti
All BJP ministers in the Mehmooba Mufti-led Jammu and Kashmir government, barring deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, have quit to enable the party to have new faces in the forthcoming reshuffle.
The resignations of Forest Minister Lal Singh and Industries Minister Chander Prakash Ganga were accepted on Sunday in light of their public defence of the prime accused in the Kathua gang-rape case during a Hindu Ekta Manch rally in March. On Tuesday, all six BJP ministers remaining in the PDP-BJP council of ministers were directed by senior party leaders to submit their resignations. As reported by Firstpost, both BJP and PDP sources maintain that this is just to prepare for a major reshuffle of ministerial portfolios and the coalition is still intact.
As the two ‘rapist defenders,’ Singh and Ganga, continued to proclaim that they were sent to the rally in Kathua by BJP to assess the ground situation, the terrible crime galvanised the Indian people to a great extent. Fearing a massive political fallout, the high command of both BJP and PDP had to reassess the situation. The two BJP ministers were asked to resign, although according to the disgraced ministers, they willingly chose to ‘sacrifice‘ themselves for the greater good of the party.
No party could claim a majority in the last state election which was held in 2014 for the 87 elected seats. This led to a historic post-poll alliance between PDP and BJP, having won 28 and 25 seats respectively. PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed returned as CM after a gap of 9 years and since his demise in 2016, his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, has taken up the charge. Until recently, BJP and PDP held 8 seats each in the 23-member council with BJP, also having the deputy CM post. Prior to the current mass exodus of BJP ministers, 3 vacant places had emerged in the council of ministers due to the resignation of the two BJP ministers on Saturday and the sacking of PDP minister Haseeb Drabu last month.
On Sunday, a relieved and grateful CM Mufti thanked PM Modi for ‘defusing’ the situation and added that this crime brought people of J&K and rest of the country ‘together,’ as reported by The Hindu. However, on Tuesday, sources reveal that after a meeting in Jammu called by BJP vice president Avinash Rai Khanna, the remaining six BJP ministers submitted their resignations. This has led to a lot of speculation about the future of the PDP-BJP coalition in the state even though unnamed sources from both parties seem confident about BJP’s support to PDP in the state assembly.
No official statement has been released as of now, but the emerging narrative is that BJP wants to introduce some new faces in the council of ministers. This can been seen as a pre-emptive counter measure taken by BJP strategists to exert pressure on PDP before a cabinet reshuffle can hand out lesser portfolios to BJP on the wave of the PR crisis. PTI reported about an ongoing internal tussle in BJP regarding new faces for cabinet berths such as Speaker Kavinder Gupta and BJP state president Sat Sharma while some party members seem to be in favour of a second chance to the two ex-ministers. The situation will become clearer as events unfold in the coming days.