J&K min­is­ters quit on PM’S say

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - REGION -

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.

WASEEM ANDRABI/ HT

Stu­dents raise slo­gans dur­ing a protest call­ing for jus­tice in Kathua rape and mur­der case, in Srinagar on Mon­day.

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