Manu Srivatsav

PDP, BJP induct new faces into Ministry

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Cabinet Reshuffle!

Jammu:  The PDP-BJP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti on Monday witnessed a reshuffle with the BJP replacing its deputy chief minister, inducting four new faces and elevating one MoS to the cabinet rank.

The PDP also inducted two new faces and dropped a cabinet minister, Abdul Haq Khan.

Jammu and Kashmir Assembly speaker Kavinder Gupta,  state BJP chief Sat Paul Sharma and six others were today sworn in as ministers in the state’s PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti.

The major shake-up of the council of ministers — including six of the BJP and two of the PDP — follows BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga resigning  from the cabinet earlier this month after they were criticised for taking part in a rally in support of those accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.

Gupta, described as an old RSS hand, will be the new deputy Chief Minister in place of Nirmal Singh, who submitted his resignation last night, officials said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti congratulated the newly inducted ministers, who were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor N N Vohra at the Convention Centre here today.

Besides Gupta and Sharma, the new BJP faces sworn in as ministers were the MLAs from Kathua and adjoining Sambha, Rajiv Jasrotia and Devinder Kumar Manyal, respectively. The BJP also upgraded Sunil Sharma, at present minister of state for transport, to the rank of a cabinet minister. BJP legislator Shakti Raj took oath as a minister of state.

From the PDP, Pulwama MLA Mohammed Khalil Band and Sonawar MLA Mohammed Ashraf Mir took oath as cabinet ministers.

Sources in the PDP said that Ashraf Wani’s induction was made to convey to the youth that the party (PDP) is seriously considering this section of society and has prioritized the youth empowerment.

Of the eight, seven are first time ministers. Seven of the eight are cabinet ministers.

While Gupta, Sat Paul Sharma and Sunil Sharma took the oath in Hindi, Mir, Jasrotia, Manyal and Shakti Raj took the oath in English. Band took his oath in Urdu.

Slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” were heard from the audience as Sat Paul Sharma and Shakti Raj took their oath of office.

The BJP has dropped Nirmal Singh, who is likely to be the new speaker. The BJP dropped Health Minister Bali Bhagat and minister of state Priya Sethi, the lone woman.

The saffron party had on April 17 asked all its nine ministers in the PDP-BJP government in the state to submit their resignations so new faces could be brought in.

The party, however, had not forwarded the resignations to the governor.

The state can have a maximum of 25 ministers, including the chief minister. Of these, 14 portfolios are with the PDP and the remaining with the BJP.

Gupta, 59, who joined RSS when he was 13 served as mayor of Jammu for three consecutive terms from 2005 to 2010. He was elected as an MLA for the first time in 2014 from Gandhi Nagar constituency and was unanimously elected as speaker of the assembly.

Earlier, Governor N.N. Vohra administered Oath of Office and Secrecy at the Jammu Convention Centre here today to the Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers who took Oath as Minister for State included Kavinder Gupta, Mohd. Khalil Band, Sat Paul Sharma, Mohammad Ashraf  Mir, Sunil Kumar Sharma, Rajiv Jasrotia, and Devinder Kumar Manyal. Shakti Raj took Oath as Minister of State, an official statement said.

The Oath ceremony was attended by Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister; Ministers; Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons of various Boards and Commissions; Members of Parliament; Legislators; B.B. Vyas, Chief Secretary; Dr. S.P. Vaid, DGP; senior Civil and Police officers, political leaders and prominent citizens of the State.


Gupta generates controversy over Kathua

Jammu: Barely hours after he took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Kavinder Gupta triggered a controversy today by terming the Kathua rape and murder case, which had led to nation-wide outrage, as a “small” happening that was hyped.

“It (Kathua rape and murder) was a small thing. We have to think over it so that such incidents are not repeated,” Gupta told reporters here.

He was replying to questions on whether the ruling coalition was under pressure in the Kathua rape and murder case.

“Such challenges are faced by the government. It shouldn’t have been given all this hype,” Gupta said.

He added that there was need to ensure justice to the victim.

“We need to get the girl justice. These are some of the biggest challenges before the government today. I think the case was not a …. We have given undue importance to this case, I feel,” he added.

The matter was deliberately hyped, Gupta added. The case is in court, which will decide on it, he said.

“There are various issues and bigger ones (confronting J&K). They need to be resolved. We should not be confined to it (Kathua case),” he added.

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