SRINAGAR: The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle in the Mehbooba Mufti government in Jammu and Kashmir took place on Monday with speaker Kavinder Gupta taking over as the new deputy chief minister of the PDP-BJP combine.
The shake-up of the council of ministers, with the induction of six new ministers from the BJP and two from the PDP, comes after BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga resigned from the cabinet earlier this month after they were criticised for taking part in a rally in support of those accused of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.
Both parties sought to downplay the link between the reshuffle and Kathua, although the appointment of Kathua MLA Rajiv Jasrotia, who was part of the rally for which Singh and Ganga had to resign, as cabinet minister came in for criticism.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was quick off the mark on Twitter. “2 BJP ministers removed in J&K for attending a pro-rapist rally & an MLA who is reported to have attended the same rally is promoted as a minister. Why are the BJP/ @MehboobaMufti confused about where they stand on the #Kathua rape?” he tweeted.
Governor NN Vohra administered the oath of office to the eight ministers in the presence of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, BJP J&K in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna and outgoing deputy CM Nirmal Singh, who is the new speaker. Gupta was the first to take oath followed by PDP’s Mohammed Khalil Bandh, BJP state president Sat Sharma, PDP’s Mohammed Ashraf Mir, and the BJP’s MoS Sunil Kumar Sharma, Jasrotia, Devinder Kumar Manyal and Shakti Raj.
Both the PDP and BJP described the reshuffle as a mid-term course correction. The coalition completed three years in office in March. The J&K constituent assembly has a term of six years unlike five years in other states.
Hours after the ceremony, Gupta kicked up a storm by terming the Kathua rape and murder a “minor incident”. “It is a small incident but we have to ensure that it does not happen again. We want that justice for the child but the incident shouldn’t be raked up again and again. The state has many such challenges,” he added.
He clarified later that since the matter is before the Supreme Court, there is no point in discussing it.
Madhav said: “The decision to quit from ministerial posts was taken by two ministers in view of some of the statements wrongly attributed to them by the media. They took moral responsibility and stepped down. Who were present and who were not… all is sub judice. Let the court decide.”__Hindustan Times