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Kathua rape: BJP may give ministers who backed accused second chance, but some party leaders lobbying for new faces

The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP will submit a report to party president Amit Shah within 15 days on the alleged role of two former ministers in inciting people to protest against the PDP-BJP coalition government and defend the accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Gujjar girl of Kathua.

 Kathua rape: BJP may give ministers who backed accused second chance, but some party leaders lobbying for new faces

File images of Jammu and Kashmir ministers Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash. Twitter

BJP sources say that while the party is committed to securing the interests of Hindus in Jammu region, one of its factions has accused former ministers Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga of damaging the PDP-BJP coalition government by seeking to inflame protests against it.

However, in a meeting of party leaders headed by national general secretary Ram Madhav on Sunday in Jammu, both Singh and Ganga were told that they could be brought back into the cabinet if an internal party probe found they went to Kathua “to secure the interests of the party and the government” by placating the Hindus of the region who had been riled up that the probe was being handled by Muslim officers.

Madhav told the BJP leaders that while the party wouldn’t compromise on its core agenda of securing the “interests of Hindus” of Jammu, it “can’t afford to be seen in coalition with the government which was influenced by bias of Muslims”.

Both Singh and Ganga questioned the probe by Jammu and Kashmir Police's crime branch and sought handing it over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They also attended the rallies in Kathua which were taken out in favour of the accused (all of whom are Hindus), including some police officials. While Ganga went to Rasana in Kathua as he was the party’s minister in-charge of Hiranagar, Samba and Vijyapur, Singh had the charge for Kathua, Basholi and Lakhanpur.

The BJP strode to power in the state on the promise of “doing justice to the Hindus of Jammu who have been complaining of facing discrimination by the Muslim chief ministers in government jobs and seats in the Assembly”. While a section of BJP leaders favour the CBI probe in reciprocation to the demand from “some Hindus of Jammu”, others maintain this could discredit their government.

Meanwhile, the right-wing Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) has been protesting that the crime branch entrusted the investigation to a Kashmiri Muslim officer even as another Muslim officer in the Special Investigation Team had been charged with rape and murder.

However, some BJP leaders are lobbying hard that Singh and Ganga should not be taken back. They want the party to instead induct new faces. “There is a strong possibility that the party could take back Singh and Ganga in the state cabinet, but a lobby is also seeking that their performance has not been satisfactory. They are contending that the workers were not happy with them”, sources said.

The party has drawn up a panel of candidates who could replace Ganga and Singh in the state cabinet if a probe finds them guilty of leading the “protest against own government”, sources added.

Those in contention for cabinet berths include Speaker Kavinder Gupta, RS Pura MLA Dr Gagan Bhagat and Kathua MLA Rajeev Jasrotia. The party is also looking at the possibility of inducting BJP state president Sat Sharma, who is completing his three-year term in December. However, sources said the final decision on cabinet reshuffle could be taken only after a report was submitted to Shah.

BJP spokesperson Sunil Seth said the final decision to induct ministers would be taken by party high command. He confirmed that both Singh and Ganga were at Sunday's meet headed by Madhav. “The BJP has a mechanism of conducting its own inquiry”, Seth said.

However, sources said it was unlikely the BJP will go for a cabinet reshuffle soon. It will be done only after officials shift from winter capital Jammu to summer capital Srinagar following the Durbar Move, they added.

Reacting to the possibility of Singh and Ganga being brought back to the cabinet, PDP spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir said, “It is too premature for me to make any comment. We will react only after a decision is taken in this regard by the BJP”. Mir added that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had expressed her displeasure with the BJP over the “conduct of two ministers”.

BJP sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed to top leadership that both Singh and Ganga should be made to resign from the party. The BJP is seeking to calm tempers. In fact, members of the Jammu Bar Association are also taking out candlelight marches to seek “justice for the Gujjar girl”.

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 18:29:38 IST