A possible political crisis in Jammu and Kashmir was averted today with the BJP, one of the ruling alliance partners, deciding to hand over to the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti the resignations of its two ministers whose presence at a rally in support of the accused arrested in connection with rape-and-murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua triggered a row.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav flew to Jammu this morning and held consultations with senior party leaders as well as MLAs and MLCs to discuss the situation in the state.
Immediately after the meeting, Madhav told reporters that the resignations of the two ministers -- Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga -- would be handed over to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for further action.
The senior BJP leader admitted that the two ministers displayed lack of discretion by taking part in the rally, but made it clear that there was no attempt to sabotage the investigations as charged by the Congress party.
"The charge that the two ministers were pro-rapist is absolutely wrong. It was sheer indiscretion on their part," 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," Madhav told reporters.
He rejected reports that there was any pressure from his alliance partner PDP for withdrawal of the two ministers. "No pressure, no ultimatum. This is all your figment of imagination," Madhav said in his reply to a query from a reporter that the PDP had threatened to walk out of the alliance if the two ministers did not resign.
Asked whether a dent has been created in the alliance after the Kathua rape-and-murder issue, Madhav said, "As far as this case is concerned, we have done our bit by allaying the fears and misconception created in the minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir but also in the entire country by asking our two ministers to resign. Beyond that I don't think there will be any impact of this incident or these developments on the coalition."
"Rest for the 'baayan bazi' (making statements) we have been receiving in last couple of days, we will wait for the PDP to take a view on that and convey what is the view of the leadership. Right now I am talking about Kathua rape incident," he said.
He cautioned that there should be no communal politics played over the ghastly crime and everyone should ensure speedy justice and exemplary punishment to the culprits.
He accused the Congress party of playing double standards. "In Jammu, the Congress leaders are casting aspersion over the probe and their senior leaders were creating law and order situation through Bar Council," he alleged.
"Certain amount of discretion should have been maintained. Certainly, there was a lack of discretion. Sometimes lack of discretion does not tantamount of any guilt...that has led to certain misconceptions about them (two ministers) also, so they decided they will quit as ministers," Madhav responded when he was asked about a pointed question that the two ministers had termed the action of the crime branch as "jungle raj" and warned police from arresting anyone.
On the plea for a CBI probe saying the investigations have been completed in three months and a charge sheet has been submitted in the court. "It is up to the court now to decide."
Madhav, who was the pointsman for the BJP in forging the alliance with PDP, said the two ministers had been sent to Kathua to pacify the people who were agitated after the incident. However, there was some amount of indiscretion on the part of the ministers for which they had to resign, he said.
To a question that the two ministers had participated in the rally in support of the accused in the rape case where the national tricolour was being used, Madhav said, "That is why they had to resign. During my visit last month here, I made it clear to everyone that in this matter no one speaks and let us allow the investigations to complete."
He said the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in the state has been told to withdraw the directive concerning Tribal with regard to encroachments, which has been raked by the Bar Association of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court as threat to the demography of Jammu.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in February this year has directed police and district administrations not to provide "police protection" for anti-encroachment drives that are being carried out by government departments against tribal population without prior approval of the tribal affairs department resulting in setback to encroachment drives of government.
"The directive (of Tribal Affairs Department) issued to different districts must be withdrawn. This we have told the government already. The directive...must be withdrawn", Madav said while replying to a question about the demographic changes in Jammu due to settlement of Rohingya refugees and Tribals on encroached state lands in Jammu city, which are two major concerns of minority Dogras of Jammu.
"There has been very clear and consistent stand of the BJP on these two issues (deportation of Rohingya refugees and massive encroachments and settlement on state lands by tribal people)," Madav said.