BJP drops Nirmal, Bali, Priya; Kavinder among 5 new faces being inducted today

2 PDP Ministers to take oath, one to be dropped

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 29: In a significant political development, ruling BJP tonight decided to swap the places of Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta and dropped Health and Medical Education Minister Bali Bhagat and Minister of State for Education and Tourism Priya Sethi while deciding to induct a total of five new faces in tomorrow’s expansion of the Council of Ministry, headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, which is scheduled for 12 noon at Jammu Convention Centre.
The PDP will also induct two new Cabinet Ministers including Mohammad Khalil Band, MLA Pulwama and Mohammad Ashraf Mir MLA Sonwar (Srinagar district) and drop one of the Ministers to keep its strength at 14. PDP has one vacancy in the Ministry since the unceremonious ouster of Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu.
With two vacancies already existing in the quota of BJP and resignations of three more Ministers sent to Governor NN Vohra in New Delhi tonight, the BJP would induct an equal number of five new faces in the Council of Ministry tomorrow to keep its strength static at 11. The new faces being inducted are Kavinder Gupta, MLA Gandhi Nagar, Sat Sharma ‘CA’, State BJP president and MLA Jammu West, Rajiv Jasrotia, MLA Kathua, Dr Devender Manyal, MLA Samba and Shakti Parihar, MLA Doda.
While Shakti Parihar will be inducted as Minister of State, all four others will be the Cabinet Ministers. In addition, BJP is likely to elevate Minister of State with Independent Charge of Transport, Sunil Sharma, MLA Kishtwar, to the rank of Cabinet.
BJP insiders told the Excelsior that Dr Nirmal Singh, who is being dropped as the Deputy Chief Minister, will be new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in place of Kavinder Gupta while Bali Bhagat, who has been dropped as Health and Medical Education Minister, was likely to succeed Sat Sharma ‘CA’ as the State BJP president.
Dr Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta, who were called to New Delhi today by BJP general secretary and party’s pointman on Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, jointly met Governor NN Vohra in New Delhi at 7 pm today and handed over to him the resignations of Dr Nirmal Singh, Deputy Chief Minister, Incharge Power Development and Housing and Urban Development Department, Bali Bhagat, Minister for Health and Education, who represents Domana Assembly segment and Priya Sethi, nominated MLA and Minister of State for Education and Tourism.
The Governor has accepted resignations of all three and a formal notification in this regard will be issued tomorrow.
They also gave the Governor the list of five Ministers to be sworn-in during tomorrow’s oath ceremony.
The Speaker had to submit his resignation to Deputy Speaker, Nazir Ahmad Gurezi after which the election for new Speaker will be convened through a Government notification. Since PDP-BJP alliance commands good majority in the Assembly, Dr Nirmal Singh’s election as the new Speaker will be a mere formality.
N N Vohra, Ram Madhav, Dr Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta will reach here tomorrow morning for the oath ceremony, which will also be attended by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and other Ministers.
The BJP already had two vacancies in its quota after the resignations of Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh and Industry and Commerce Minister Chander Prakash Ganga. With three more Ministers resigning, the BJP will induct an equal number of five Ministers tomorrow. Sunil Sharma, the sitting MoS, will be elevated to the Cabinet rank.
The BJP will now have 11 Ministers including 9 in Cabinet rank and two Ministers of State (Shakti Parihar, new entrant and Ajay Nanda, who is Minister of State for Finance and Planning). People’s Conference MLA and Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Ghani Lone is also a Minister from BJP quota.
Entry of Kavinder Gupta and Sat Sharma ‘CA’ in the Council of Ministry will give one additional berth to Jammu district. PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Sham Choudhary, MLA Suchetgarh is another Minister from Jammu. Bali Bhagat, who also represented Jammu district, has been dropped.
Kathua district, which had two Cabinet Ministers—Dr Nirmal Singh and Choudhary Lal Singh, will now have Rajiv Jasrotia as lone Cabinet Minister while Dr Devender Manyal would be lone Cabinet Minister from Samba district, which was earlier represented by Chander Prakash Ganga. Moreover, Dr Manyal will be lone Scheduled Caste face in the Ministry replacing Bali Bhagat.
Elevation of Sunil Sharma to the Cabinet rank and induction of Shakti Parihar as the Minister of State will give more representation to Kishtwar and Doda districts.
Priya Sethi, who has been dropped, was lone woman Minister from the BJP quota. She is the Nominated woman MLA.
Sources said prior to finalization of names for induction and exclusion in the Council of Ministry, Ram Madhav had detailed discussions with Dr Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta in New Delhi. The list was also approved by BJP national president Amit Shah.
Reshuffle among the BJP Ministers was necessitated as Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga had to resign for extending support to the people of Rassana for their demand to hold CBI probe into minor girl’s rape-cum-murder. Later, all BJP Ministers excepting Dr Nirmal Singh had submitted their resignations to facilitate rejig in the Ministry.