Following the path of the province of Jammu for a series of problems, the BJP has decided to make important changes in the long-awaited reorganization of the cabinet of the J & K government. Deputy chief Minister Nirmal Singh will resign, exchanging places with President Kavinder Gupta.
Previously, the BJP had asked all its ministers in the government of Mehbooba Mufti, except Nirmal Singh, to resign after two of its ministers, Chander Prakash Ganga and Choudhary Lal Singh, had to resign their position in the Kathua case of rape and murder.
Nirmal Singh had supported CM Mufti’s decision to continue with an investigation of the Crime Branch in the Kathua case, although many BJP leaders had endorsed the demand for a CBI investigation. It is known that he shares a good equation with Mufti, and often acted as a bridge in the tense relationship between the BJP and its governing partner PDP.
Gupta, who replaces Singh, is an MLA for the first time, but a hand BJP and RSS. He has served as mayor of Jammu for three periods, between 2005 and 2010.
Late Sunday afternoon, Nirmal Singh announced that he was resigning as deputy commissioner, and said that “a new face of the BJP will take over.”
The PDP has 13 ministers at this time after the overthrow of Haseeb Drabu as finance minister. It will induce two more on Monday, Mohd Ashraf Mir and Mohammad Khalil Band, both with cabinet status.
BJP sources said that six ministers were sworn in at a ceremony to be held in Jammu, including five cabinet ministers and a Ministry of Security. In addition to Gupta, the other new faces are said to be BJP and Jammu West State President MLA Sat Sharma and D K Manyal (Samba MLA). Sunil Sharma, who held the portfolio of the Minister of State for Transport (independent position), would be elevated to the rank of cabinet.
The two new ministers would be Rajiv Jasrotia (Kathua MLA), who will obtain cabinet status, and Shakti Parihar (Doda MLA), as MoS, the sources said.
The BJP’s decision to modernize the ministerial team comes amid adverse reports from local RSS and BJP leaders that, in Jammu, the party has surrendered completely to the PDP, which is strong in Kashmir. There were complaints that the party ministers had not safeguarded “the interests of the Jammu region”, from where the BJP won 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections, the largest number ever held, taking it to power in the state.
Sources said Gupta’s name as CM Deputy was finalized at a meeting chaired by BJP President Amit Shah in Delhi, attended by, among others, the general secretary of the party and J & K, Ram Madhav, a deputy and also a charge Avinash Rai Khanna, Nirmal Singh and Sat Sharma. Gupta went to Delhi on Sunday morning.
In addition to Ganga, Lal Singh and Nirmal Singh, Bali Bhagat, who was the Minister of Medical Education and Health, is ready to leave, and make way for Manyal. The sources said there were complaints of non-compliance against Bali, including BJP leaders. The Prime Minister has expressed on many occasions his dissatisfaction with the poor care of patients in hospitals. Priya Sethi, the outgoing State Minister for Education, is also being abandoned.
With the induction of Sat Sharma into the cabinet, the BJP would be looking for a new state president. The sources said that Sharma would have lost the publication anyway due to the party’s low popularity in the Jammu region, but the BJP gave him a ministerial post to avoid the impression of an unceremonious expulsion.
The BJP has been facing an adverse reaction in Jammu over the state government that has stopped the demand for a CBI investigation into the rape and murder of Kathua, and about the failure to meet the demand for districts in Nowshera and Akhnoor.
Inducing the MLAs of Samba and Kathua as ministers, the BJP hopes, would help contain some losses in the region. By inducing Shakti Parihar as MoS and raising Sunil Sharma, he wants to maintain his control over the Chenab Valley region.