Kathua rape and murder fallout: BJP asks all ministers to quit for fresh faces

Jammu (PTI): The Kathua rape case on Tuesday appeared to cast its shadow on Jammu and Kashmir politics with the BJP asking all its nine ministers to resign to bring in fresh faces, days after two other party leaders had to quit the coalition government amid a nationwide outcry over their presence at a rally against the charge sheet in the gruesome incident.

The day also saw BJP MLA Lal Singh, who along with his party colleague Chander Prakash Ganga had to quit as ministers last Friday, hold a roadshow from Jammu to Kathua during which he demanded a CBI probe to ensure justice for the victim and asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to resign for her “failure” to address the issue.

The BJP has been under pressure from the opposition parties and civil society ever since Singh and Ganga took part in a rally against the chargesheet in the rape-and-murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, which was seen by many as support for the accused in the case. The two ministers subsequently resigned.

While Singh embarked on a roadshow early on Tuesday, the BJP’s state unit later in the evening asked all its nine remaining ministers in the two-year-old government, led by PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, to tender their resignations to enable the party to bring in fresh faces in the state government.

According to top state government sources, a reshuffle is now likely to take place later this week in the government.

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

Singh trained his guns on Mufti and demanded that she should resign, saying it was her “biggest failure” and if she has “wisdom and conscience”, she should resign.

“If two ministers can sacrifice their posts in the interest of peace, those who are actually responsible for creating such an atmosphere should listen to their conscience,” Singh said targeting the PDP leader.

The tone of Singh was completely different from his speech at the March rally in Kathua where he had demanded a CBI probe accusing the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police of arresting people without any proof. However, Singh appeared to be changing his narrative on Tuesday, saying he wanted a CBI probe so that justice could be ensured for the victim.

Internet services in Jammu were cut off by the police as several rumours were floating in the city. “Some of the rumours and misinformation campaign has potential of spreading communal tension in the city, therefore, we snapped it,” a senior police officer said, adding a decision to restore the services will be taken tomorrow.

Singh, the former forest minister, said the Chief Minister has failed to understand the popular sentiment and was yet to seek a CBI probe into the brutal incident.

Asked about his decision to resign from the state government, Singh blamed the media for “creating a perception” and forcing him to quit.

“We resigned because the perception created by the national media was not good. It portrayed the situation in a wrong way, which was not the case at all. It was portrayed that the entire Jammu region was siding with rapists,” he said.

“It (the perception) created problems for our prime minister and country. It was not good. So, we preferred to resign. We have not done anything wrong,” Singh added.

The brutal gang rape and murder of the girl has already seen a nationwide outrage with protests being observed across the country. The case is also being reportedly widely in the international media.