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BJP chief in J&K Sat Sharma confirmed that the two ministers had put in their papers. Lal Singh was forests minister while Ganga held charge of industry and commerce departments.
Although Sharma claimed that Lal Singh and Ganga quit on their own, sources said the two were recalled at the instance of PM Narendra Modi, who held that being ministers, they should not have joined the attack on J&K police for arresting those accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old. Sources also said the PM rejected the ministers’ defence that they had attended the protest organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch against the so-called frame-up in order to defuse tension as thousands had turned up for the protest at Hiranagar on March 22.
The action against the two ministers coincided with the PM breaking his silence to condemn the rape in Kathua as well as the one in Unnao in BJP-ruled UP.
Modi, who has been attacked by Congress and others for keeping mum on the two atrocities, spoke forcefully and said the twin crimes had shamed the nation. Speaking at a function to inaugurate a memorial to Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, Modi said, “The type of incidents that have been talked about in the last two days have shamed us as a nation and as a society. I want to assure the nation that no offender will be spared.”
The two J&K ministers, sources said, defended themselves by claiming that they were seeking to assuage Hindus who were said to be angry over alleged attempts to change the demographic mix in Jammu by settling Rohingyas and Bakarwals (Muslim nomads). The Prime Minister did not accept the explanation and said it did not behove them to attack the government they were part of.
Mufti, it is learnt, was another contributory factor as she expressed discomfort with her ally’s political backing for the accused. Sources said Mufti told home minister Rajnath Singh that the actions of Lal Singh and Ganga had complicated matters for her just when she was trying to mollify the anger over the death of civilians during protests organised to help terrorists during encounters with security forces.
The public remarks of her brother Tassaduq Mufti, where he said the PDP-BJP coalition had forfeited people’s confidence, and the PDP meeting that Mufti has called at her Gupkar Road residence on Saturday, were seen as signalling her discomfort over what the former called “communalisation” of crime.
Restiveness in PDP over ties with BJP, especially in the light of the Centre’s refusal to hold talks with Pakistan and call off its proactive counter-terror measures, came to the fore once again on Friday, with senior party functionary Nazim-ud-din Bhat seconding Tassaduq Mufti’s criticism and saying it was time the party chalked out its future course.
Sources said Saturday’s meeting called by Mufti may turn out to be a key juncture in the equations with BJP and the Centre, though observers believe the CM will time a separation closer to the polls so she can derive maximum mileage by attacking BJP.
Talking to TOI, Sat Sharmna denied he had been told by the party high command to take the resignations.