BJP general secretary Ram Madhav on Monday asserted that the reshuffle in the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet had nothing to do with the Kathua rape and murder case and it was planned when the alliance with the PDP was stitched three years ago. He termed the reshuffle a “normal exercise” and said that on reviewing the situation a decision was taken to give an opportunity to five more MLAs to understand governance.
He, however, dodged questions over the inclusion of Rajiv Jasrotia, an MLA from Kathua, who had participated in a rally there after the killing of the eight-year-old girl from the Muslim Bakerwal community. Two BJP ministers, Lal Singh and Chandra Prakash, had to quit early this month after a row over their participation in the event. “This has nothing to do with it (Kathua rape and murder case). Our government has completed three years in power so we decided to have a reshuffle in the Cabinet and give an opportunity to new faces,” Madhav told reporters at the BJP headquarters here.
Madhav said the BJP had planned the reshuffle three years before but had then planned to restrict the number to two or three. However, due to the resignation of the two ministers they were forced to raise the number to five and promote a minister of state. He stressed that there were no double standards and the ministers took the decision to quit their posts in view of some statements that were attributed to them.
“Those statements created a wrong impression that they never intended. The impression that perhaps they were supporting the accused which was not a fact. As the impression was created due to the wrong presentation of the facts, they took moral responsibility and decided to step down,” Madhav said. He was flanked by party national vice president and in charge Jammu and Kashmir Avinash Rai Khanna, Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta, his predecessor Nirmal Singh and state BJP president and minister Sat Sharma.
On a tweet by National Conference working president Omar Abdullah questioning the inclusion of Jasrotia, he said, “Twitter is a free medium and let them say what they want to say. I have answered the question.” Shortly after Jasrotia had taken oath as a minister, Abdullah asked, “Two BJP ministers removed in J-K for attending a pro-rapist rally and an MLA who is reported to have attended the same rally is promoted as a minister.” “Why are the BJP/Mehbooba Mufti confused about where they stand on the #Kathua rape,” he asked.
Madhav also faced a volley of questions over the demands for a CBI inquiry in the case, especially from Lal Singh. The BJP leader said the BJP’s stand was that the case was before the court and its decision would be respected. Asked why the party was not taking action against Singh for “anti-party activities and provoking people”, he said, “The demand (CBI probe) was raised by various sections of the society, including the bar council here. Are you saying they are all provoking the people?”
“The same issue is before the Supreme Court so it is not something that only one person (Lal Singh) is raising… Let the court take a view and afterward, if anyone persists with the demand, then we will take a stand on that person’s demand,” he said. On dropping of the only woman BJP minister — Priya Sethi– from the Cabinet, he said, “We did not have any woman MLA in the 25 members who got elected to the legislature from Jammu region. ”
“Because we wanted to give importance to women in the Cabinet we decided to nominate one of our senior leaders to the assembly and made her a minister for three years. So you don’t have to question our commitment towards empowering women,” he said. He said the party would continue to empower women in many other ways. Madhav said those who were not in the cabinet now for various reasons would continue to work in important positions in the party and the party gave importance to all sections, including women.