Ahead of Jammu and Kashmir cabinet reshuffle, BJP ministers seek slots by playing caste card

The BJP is facing pressure from MLAs seeking portfolios in the council of ministers based on their caste ahead of the Jammu and Kashmir cabinet reshuffle which is likely to be carried out before 27 April.

The Governor’s Office and the Chief Minister's Office is slated to close in  Jammu and open in Srinagar in May. According to BJP leaders, they are seeking an adequate representation of different castes, including Scheduled Castes (SCs) MLAs, Gaddis (Hindu nomads), Rajputs and Brahmins in the council.

File photo of Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh. News18

File photo of Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh. News18

Of the 25 MLAs, the BJP has 7 legislators from SCs. However, only one MLA from that category, Bali Bhagat, is in the cabinet as health minister. BJP leaders said they've sought that at least one more minister be inducted from SCs.  Two of its ministers, Chander Prakash Ganga, and Lal Singh, were forced to resign after they addressed the protest rallies in Kathua seeking a CBI probe in rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim Gujjar girl.

Sources said the BJP’s core group leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and state president Sat Sharma are in Delhi and will meet the national general secretary Ram Madhav and president Amit Shah to decide the names of MLAs to be inducted in the council.

BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said that party meetings held on Monday and Tuesday will take a call. “The cabinet reshuffle will have to be carried out before Darbar Move,” Sethi said.

In the council led by Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party president and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, PDP has 13 ministers including those holding minister of state (MoS) portfolios. The BJP has 9 ministers including Sajjad Lone, of People’s Conference, who is also holding a portfolio on BJP quota. The PDP has a one slot vacant after the recent resignation of Haseeb Drabu as finance minister after his remarks that Kashmir was not a political issue went viral. Before Drabu's resignation, the PDP had 14 ministers, including Mufti.

The BJP is looking at filling the vacancies of two ministers created after the resignations of Lal Singh and Ganga. As per the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, the state can have a maximum of 25 ministers, that is, 20 percent of total strength of both Houses of Legislature (125 law makers from both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council).

BJP leaders have informed the party that besides giving due “representation” to the lawmakers who are from SCs, it should take into consideration the representation of Hindu MLAs from the Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal regions of Jammu division where Muslims have a sizeable population.

The party won the seats of Kalakote and Nowshera from Peer Panchal, Doda, and Kishwar in Chenab Valley in the 2014 Assembly elections in view of the communal split between Hindus and Muslims and the anti-incumbency wave against the National Conference-Congress coalition government.

While BJP won 25 seats, PDP emerged as the single largest party with 28 MLAs. The National Conference and Congress won 15 and 12 seats each. Five seats were won by Independents, one by CPM and one by People’s Democratic Front (PDF) in the 87-member Legislative Assembly.

BJP leaders said that one of the party MLAs, Jewan Lal, was a Gaddi from Bani Assembly constituency, while Brahmins and Khatris were also represented in the cabinet. The BJP is so much looking at striking a balance by giving representation to different groups in the council in view of the attacks by regional political parties, including Panthers Party, that it reneged on its promises of increasing the Assembly seats for Jammu and giving the people of the region due share in government jobs.

Former minister and Panthers Party chairman Harsh Dev Singh recently said “BJP leaders have abandoned their fundamentals and avowed principals” for personal gain. The Congress also supported the bandh call in Jammu given by the Jammu Bar Association which sought a CBI probe in the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl. The Congress said that “it was due to the inefficiency” of the PDP-BJP government that the people were forced to observe a shutdown.


Updated Date: Apr 23, 2018 19:22 PM

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