JAMMU, Apr 15: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today accepted resignations of two BJP Ministers-Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga-and forwarded them to Governor NN Vohra for acceptance, reducing strength of the Council of Ministry to 22.
Official sources told the Excelsior that resignations of Forests Minister Choudhary Lal Singh and Industry and Commerce Minister Chander Prakash Ganga, the BJP MLAs from Basohli and Vijaypur respectively, have been accepted by the Chief Minister and forwarded to the Raj Bhawan for acceptance.
The Raj Bhawan could put its seal on the resignations tomorrow as today was Sunday, they said, adding it was a mere formality now.
The two Ministers had submitted their resignations to BJP president Sat Sharma on Friday, who had forwarded them to the Chief Minister yesterday after the Legislature Party meeting of the BJP, chaired by Ram Madhav, national general secretary and party’s pointman on Jammu and Kashmir.
The Ministers had resigned following controversy generated from some quarters on their participation in a rally at Hiranagar on March 1 supporting demand of the people of Rassana in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district for Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) probe into the rape-cum-murder of a minor Bakerwal girl.
Despite resignations, Lal Singh and Ganga continued to support the demand for CBI inquiry into the Rassana incident saying there was nothing wrong in their demand.
Meanwhile, strength of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti led Council of Ministry has come down to 22 with the acceptance of resignations of Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga.
As per Jammu and Kashmir’s special Constitutional position, the Government can have maximum of 25 Ministers including the Chief Minister i.e. 20 per cent of the total strength of both Houses of Legislature (Assembly as well as Council) as against the provision of 15 per cent of the total strength of the Lower House at Centre and other States.
With the induction of Tassaduq Hussain Mufti and Javid Mustafa Mir as the Cabinet Ministers from the PDP in December 2017, the State had exhausted its quota of 25 Ministers.
However, Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu was unceremoniously removed from the Cabinet over his Kashmir remarks last month by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reducing strength of the Ministry to 24. The Chief Minister had given additional charge of the Finance Ministry to Education Minister and her party colleague Altaf Ahmad Bukhari.
With the exit of two BJP Ministers, strength of the Ministry has come down to 22, leading to three vacancies.
As per the PDP-BJP agreement, PDP will have 14 Ministers-11 Cabinet and three MoS (including the Chief Minister) while BJP will have 11 Ministers-eight Cabinet and three MoS. The BJP Ministers included Sajjad Ghani Lone from the People’s Conference, an ally of the BJP.
Sources said the Chief Minister could give charge of Forests and Industry and Commerce Ministries to some BJP Ministers pending expansion of the Cabinet and inclusion of two BJP leaders in the Ministry in place of Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga.
There were indications that the BJP could take some time in deciding its two new faces in the Council of Ministry and till then additional charge of the two Departments can be held by the incumbent Ministers. The BJP leaders have already started lobbying for the Ministerial berths as replacement of Lal Singh and Ganga.
However, according to BJP sources, Ram Madhav, who presided over the Legislature Party meeting of the BJP here yesterday, didn’t discuss any names as successors of the two outgoing Ministers.
“There was no discussion on the names for induction in the Ministry or the timing of expansion of the Cabinet,” sources said, adding the issue didn’t figure in yesterday’s meeting as number of MLAs were supportive of the demand for CBI probe into Rassana incident for which Lal Singh and Ganga were asked to resign.
Ram Madhav could discuss names for inductions into the Cabinet with BJP national president Amit Shah after the things settled down in Jammu, sources said.
They added that the resignations of Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga were received by the Chief Minister from BJP State chief Sat Sharma this morning which were immediately accepted and forwarded to Governor N N Vohra for completing the procedural formalities, they said.
Ram Madhav, who had held consultations with legislators of the party here yesterday, had announced the resignations would be forwarded for further action thereby ending a simmering political crisis in the State.
Both Lal Singh and Ganga had maintained yesterday that they had been sent by the party to Kathua to understand the ground situation and they had done nothing wrong.