Jammu: In a surprise development, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Sunday night tendered his resignation to pave the way for Speaker Kavinder Gupta to take over the post in the PDP-BJP government led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Seen as a desperate bid to have an image makeover in the wake of growing mistrust in its core constituency of the Jammu region, BJP has pushed five new faces for inclusion in ministry in the eagerly awaited rejig taking place today.
The outgoing speaker, while talking to STATE TIMES , confirmed his induction as Deputy Chief Minister.
BJP’s state unit chief Sat Sharma, MLAs from Kathua and adjoining Samba Rajiv Jasrotia and Devinder Kumar Manyal are among the BJP faces who will be inducted into the state government as Cabinet ministers, officials said.
“I have resigned from the post to pave the way for a new deputy chief minister in the state,” Singh told a news agency.
Sources told STATE TIMES that all the developments took place unexpectedly this afternoon in the national capital when the BJP high command sprang surprises by deciding to remove the Deputy Chief Minister and others after minute-to-minute consultations with the BJP chief Amit Shah who is campaigning in Karnataka. The reaction of Dr Nirmal Singh, who was in the thick and thin of proposed changes in New Delhi were not immediately known.
Sources said that the outgoing Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh will head the Pradesh BJP unit though speculations were rife about his candidature for the post of Speaker. Name of the former minister Sukhnandan Choudhary are also making rounds for the position of Speaker.
The BJP, according to sources, has taken the resignation of two ministers over their alleged participation in the Hindu Ekta Manch rally in Kathua to its advantage by giving a new look to the ministry in the backdrop of increasing disenchantment among the people of Jammu over the performance of existing lot of ministers, allegations of non-performance and corruption. The BJP high command is struggling to make the Pradesh Unit vibrant in the election year to offset the damage of dwindling graph. The BJP’s response to the fast changing developments in Kathua rape and murder row has also distanced the party from the people, who vehemently want a CBI probe into the rape and murder of an eight year old girl. Though there is a popular sentiment for severest punishment to the guilty, there are virtually no takers to the Crime Branch theory of conspiracy angle to weed out Gujjars and Bakerwals. The hardcore BJP rank and file are feeling hurt over entire Dogra population being projected as rape supporters due to wrong handling of the BJP ministers in the Mehbooba led government.
The PDP will have Mohd Khalil Band, MLA from Pulwama, and Mohd Ashraf Mir, MLA from Sonwar, as Cabinet ministers, while the BJP will upgrade Sunil Sharma, at present Minister of State for Transport, to the rank of a Cabinet minister, the officials said.
BJP MLA from Doda Shakti Parihar will also be sworn in as Minister of State on Monday at the oath-taking ceremony, which will be attended by senior BJP leaders, including national general secretary Ram Madhav and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, they said.
Governor N N Vohra will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers at the Convention Centre at 12 noon.
The officials said the function is being held at the Convention Centre instead of the Raj Bhavan as the Jammu and Kashmir government has already shifted its base to summer capital Srinagar as part of the bi-annual Darbar move.
The saffron party had on April 17 asked all its nine ministers in the PDP-BJP government in the state to submit their resignations to enable bringing in new faces in the two-year-old Mehbooba Mufti government.
The party, however, had not forwarded the resignations to the Governor.
Two BJP ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — who took part in a rally in support of those accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, had to resign from the government earlier this month.
The state can have a maximum of 25 ministers, including the chief minister, out of which 14 portfolios are with the PDP and the remaining with the BJP.
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