The Bharatiya Janata Party inducted five new faces in the Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday while the Peoples Democratic Party appointed two new ministers.
BJP’s Kavinder Gupta was sworn in as the deputy chief minister. He replaced Nirmal Singh, who resigned from the Cabinet on Sunday. Gupta is a former mayor of Jammu, and represents the Gandhinagar seat in the Assembly. Singh will be the new Assembly Speaker, Bharatiya Janata Party National General Secretary Ram Madhav said, ANI reported.
BJP state President Sat Sharma and Samba MLA DK Manyal were also given ministerial positions. Kathua MLA Rajiv Jasrotia also got a Cabinet rank while the MLA from Doda, Shakti Parihar, was made a minister of state. Former Minister of State for Transport Sunil Sharma was also promoted to the Cabinet.
“The party gave me the responsibility to bring in change after three years,” Gupta, who was earlier the Speaker of the Assembly, told The Indian Express. “I will try my best to meet expectations of people and work for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. We had entered into an alliance [with the PDP] following people’s mandate. I hope it keeps working for them.”
The party’s national secretary said the BJP’s alliance with the People’s Democratic Party had completed almost three years in power. “We felt the MLAs must get experience of being in state cabinet,” Madhav said.
The PDP also inducted Mohammad Ashraf Mir and Mohammad Khalil Band into the Cabinet. The government had sacked Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu in March after he triggered a controversy by claiming that the unrest in the state was “not a political issue”.
On April 17, the BJP asked all its nine ministers in the government to submit their resignations. The party, however, did not forward the resignations to the governor. Before the reshuffle, the party had six Cabinet ministers and three ministers of state in the government.
The BJP’s move to include new faces in the government has been interpreted in some quarters as a move to control the damage caused by the participation of former ministers Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chandra Prakash Ganga in a rally in Kathua in support of those accused of murdering and allegedly raping an eight-year-old girl.
But BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav said the reshuffle had nothing to do with the Kathua case. “Our government has completed three years and we decided to give a chance to new faces,” he told ANI.