Reshuffle in J&K a hogwash

Former BJP minister Choudhary Lal Singh leads a protest rally in support of the demand for CBI probe in rape and murder of the 8-year-old Kathua girl, in Jammu. PTI File Photo

A reshuffle of the Jammu & Kashmir Cabinet has been talked about for a long time. Various reasons had been cited, like the need to give it a more representative character and to bring in fresh blood. The government has an unremarkable record of performance and so it was felt that the Cabinet needed changes. In this week’s reshuffle, eight legislators from the BJP and two from the PDP were inducted into the Cabinet. But the trigger for the reshuffle was a recent event and the circumstances related to it, more than any other consideration. Two BJP ministers, Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, had resigned on instructions from the party. This was a face-saving measure after the ministers took part in a rally which was held in support of the accused in the Kathua rape incident. The party had said that they were told to resign “to allay fears and misconceptions in the minds of the people.” But the reshuffle has not allayed them.

One MLA, who is now a minister post the reshuffle is Rajiv Jasrotia, and he had participated in the rally in which Lal Singh and Ganga were present. That makes the resignation of the two ministers meaningless and the reason given for it insincere. The implication is that the party does not consider that participation in the rally was wrong and the ministers were told to quit only to show that something was done to respect public opinion. Another change in the ministry confirms this. Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who did not agree with the demand made by Lal Singh, Ganga and others in the party for a CBI probe into the rape case, has been replaced by Speaker Kavinder Gupta who described the gang-rape as a “minor incident” which was exaggerated by the media.

The message from these changes is that the party does not disagree with the view of its Jammu unit and its leaders who had made the Kathua incident a Hindu-Muslim issue. So the public statements about support and sympathy for the victim do not carry conviction. The incident was used to further divide the society. The resignations and the reshuffle may have increased the divide. Cabinet changes in a troubled state like Jammu & Kashmir should normally be for reasons relating to administration, handling of militancy etc. But this week’s reshuffle seems to have been prompted mainly by the politics surrounding the Kathua incident. It may have also increased the divisions between the BJP and the PDP whose alliance has never given the impression that it is in a state of natural co-existence.

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Reshuffle in J&K a hogwash

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