While saying that its two ministers were only guilty of “indiscretion” in the Kathua rape-and-murder case, the BJP on Saturday forwarded their resignations to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. It also claimed credit for speedy investigation in the case.
Addressing a press conference here with Deputy CM Nirmal Singh of the party, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said the motive of its ministers in joining the Hindu Ekta Manch protest in support of the Kathua accused was to “dispel misgivings about investigations and reassure people that there will be no harassment of any innocent”. However, he added, “Certain amount of discretion should have been maintained. Certainly, there was lack of discretion. Sometimes, lack of discretion does not amount to a tilt, but the lack of discretion led to a misconception even about the ministers, their own person, and that is why they decided to step down.”
The ministers, Chander Parkash Ganga and Choudhary Lal Singh, resigned on Friday, ahead of a meeting called by Mufti of PDP ministers and leaders, to discuss the spate of violence in Kashmir and the Kathua developments. Apart from Ganga and Singh, the BJP’s Kathua MLA, Rajeev Jasrotia, and Hiranagar MLA, Kuldeep Kumar, had attended the Hindu Ekta Manch protests.
Madhav said he did not see any threat to the BJP’s coalition with the PDP. “We have done our bit to address or allay fears and misconceptions in the minds of the people not only in Jammu or Kashmir but also the entire country by asking our two ministers to tender their resignations. I do not think there will be any impact of this incident or these developments on the coalition,” he said.
In an apparent reference to Tourism Minister Tassaduq Mufti’s interview to The Indian Express saying that the PDP could end up being “partners in a crime with the BJP”, Madhav said, “Rest of the byanbaji (statements) we have been hearing on a daily basis in the last few days, I will wait for the PDP to take a view on that and convey what is the view of the leadership. Then we will see.”
The BJP leader also denied that its ministers had resigned under pressure from the PDP. “Nobody dictates any agenda to us,” he said. “We have a common agenda and we both work towards fulfilling our commitments to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We both are equal and responsible partners in this government and we are neither dictated by anybody nor anyone dictates to us. We work together for the welfare and betterment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Claiming that it was because of the BJP that the chargesheet had been readied against the Kathua accused on time, Madhav said it showed that there had been no interference or attempt to create obstacles in the inquiry by anyone. “Our party stood by the government on the issue of investigation,” he said, adding, “Talks for fast-tracking the trial are also on and we believe stern punishment will be awarded to the guilty soon.” Incidentally, BJP ministers had jointly called on Mufti to try to persuade her to hand over the case to the CBI.
Madhav said the brutal rape and murder had “shaken the conscience” of the nation, and said parties, especially the Congress, “should not bring politics or religion into it”. Accusing the Congress of double-standards, “by leading an agitation in Jammu against the Crime Branch investigations in the matter”, he said, “A girl’s life will not come back, but we will ensure that justice is done to her and the guilty punished. The state government, of which the BJP is also a part, will try to deliver justice.”
He denied that party leaders had played any role in the Hindu Ekta Manch agitation. BJP state secretary Vijay Sharma, who led the Manch, “is no more our office-bearer”, he said. About the BJP’s position on deportation of Rohingya from Jammu and a drive to remove nomads including Bakerwals from forests and government land, Madhav said, “We have a clear and consistent stand on both the issues.” He added that the Union Home Ministry was fully seized of the Rohingya matter, and there would be “effective steps” soon.