Two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers who quit the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet on Saturday claimed they had attended a rally supporting the accused in the Kathua rape and murder because the party had asked them to.

“Our party leaders asked us to attend the rally. Our state chief Sat Sharma sent us to the rally,” Chander Prakash Ganga said. “The people at the event said that we do not trust the investigation, and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry.” He claimed his resignation was a “sacrifice” made to save the BJP’s image.

The BJP on Friday sent the resignations of two of its ministers in the state Cabinet to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, PTI reported. This came after the two ministers – Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga – had caused massive outrage by their presence at a rally in support of a man arrested in connection with the brutal rape and murder of a child in Kathua.

BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav flew to Jammu on Saturday morning to consult MLAs and MLCs on the situation in the state. He later told reporters that the two ministers had been “indiscreet” by taking part in the rally, but denied that there was an attempt to sabotage the investigation.

“The charge that the two ministers were pro-rapist is absolutely wrong. It was sheer indiscretion on their part [to attend the rally],” he said. “However, after this, there was concern in the entire country about the ghastly crime committed on the little girl. Therefore, keeping in mind the perception and general situation, the two BJP leaders, after holding consultations with the prime minister and other senior leaders of the party, decided to submit their resignations.”

He denied that the People’s Democratic Party, which is the BJP’s alliance partner in the Jammu and Kashmir government, had threatened to withdraw support if the ministers did not resign. “No pressure, no ultimatum. This is all your figment of imagination,” Madhav said to a reporter’s question.

Meanwhile, PDP MLC Naeem Akhtar said that he wanted justice for the eight-year-old girl “at the earliest”. “This government will soon bring a law in the state under which people who rape minors will be given the death penalty,” he added.