J&K ministers quit on PM’S say
NEWDELHI: On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided that the two Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — in the eye of a storm for participating in a rally defending the Kathua rape accused had to go, said two leaders familiar with political developments that led up to the resignation.
The PM and the BJP’S national leadership, including home minister Rajnath Singh, party president Amit Shah, party’s general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, and general secretary in charge of J&K affairs Ram Madhav, then spent the day in overruling the concerns and objections of the state unit. By that evening, both ministers had sent their resignations to the party state unit chief, which was forwarded to CM Mehbooba Mufti the next day. Meanwhile, J&K governor NN Vohra on Monday accepted the resignations of both the ministers.
Leaders involved with the developments reconstructed the sequence of events from Friday . None of them wished to be identified. With the details of the Kathua charge sheet generating widespread political and public outrage last week, Modi decided that the continuation of the ministers in the J&K government was ‘untenable’.
On Friday, he called a party leader and conveyed the decision. “The PM categorically said the ministers must go.” The PM’S decision was based on the fact that the party must not be seen as ‘defending rape accused’, nor of ‘communalising an issue and crime as heinous as rape’.
Earlier in the week, Mufti had met both the PM and home minister Singh to convey concerns about the situation in Jammu due to the incident and had informally conveyed the need for action.
The state unit of the BJP was unhappy at the PM’S decision and communicated its concerns to the leadership. It suggested that this would demoralise the party rank and file; and this was a deliberate conspiracy by J&K government, which had done little to address BJP’S concerns, said a leader who was in contact with them.
“State leaders also emphasised that this case was three months old and there was nothing against the party leaders; that there were NIA cases against Mehbooba’s own ministers but little action had been taken against them; and any such action — in response to pressure from the media and Mehbooba — would hurt the party electorally,” he added. The objections were overruled.
“While recognising that it may harm us, the party’s national leadership was clear. It had to keep in mind the bigger picture, the larger interest. No one was comfortable with the party being seen as associated with rape accused. It was also wrong to communalise the issue,” said one of the persons familiar with the backroom developments ahead of the resignations.
After intense parleys between Singh, Shah, Ram Lal and Ram Madhav, everyone agreed that the PM’S decision had to be implemented immediately. The two ministers were told they could send their resignation to the state unit chief instead of the CM. The same evening, the PM used his speech on the occasion of the inauguration of the Ambedkar National Memorial to publicly condemn the incident and promise justice. Madhav, who was in Singapore, returned late on Friday evening and went to Jammu on Saturday morning.
Students raise slogans during a protest calling for justice in Kathua rape and murder case, in Srinagar on Monday.