Jammu and Kashmir cabinet reshuffle: Speaker Kavinder Gupta to replace Nirmal Singh as Deputy CM as BJP undertakes major rejig

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New Delhi | Published: April 30, 2018 9:18:30 AM

Kavinder Gupta is a first-time MLA and had successfully contested the assembly polls from Gandhinagar constituency in Jammu. An old BJP and RSS hand, Gupta had served as Mayor of Jammu thrice between 2005 and 2010.

Jammu and Kashmir, Nirmal Kumar Singh, PDP, BJP, Mehbooba Mufti, Kavinder Gupta, Kashmir, Jammu, NN Vohra, Cabinet reshuffle, Mehbooba Mufti cabinetFile pic of Kavinder Gupta

The much-anticipated reshuffle of the PDP-BJP alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir will be carried out today with Governor NN Vohra administering the oath of office and secrecy to new ministers in the afternoon at the Convention Centre instead of the Raj Bhavan. The rejig was due since two BJP Ministers Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga quit the Mehbooba Mufti Cabinet after their names got mired in a controversy over their participation in a rally demanding the release of Kathua rape and murder case accused.

While the BJP has decided to go for major changes, the PDP is likely to induct two new faces from the party in the Council of Ministers. Ahead of the reshuffle, deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Sunday resigned from the post, saying a fresh face from the BJP will be taking over. The post will be filled by Speaker and BJP leader Kavinder Gupta. Earlier, the BJP had sought and received resignations of all ministers and forwarded only two to Mehbooba Mufti. They were Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga.

Nirmal Singh is known to share a good equation with CM Mehbooba Mufti and had backed her decision to stick to probe in the Kathua rape and murder case by the Crime Branch. This, despite other BJP leaders demanding that the probe be handed over to the CBI. Singh had also played the role of a troubleshooter for the BJP when ties between the two ruling allies landed in trouble.

Who is Kavinder Gupta

Kavinder Gupta is a first-time MLA and had successfully contested the assembly polls from Gandhinagar constituency in Jammu. An old BJP and RSS hand, Gupta had served as Mayor of Jammu thrice between 2005 and 2010.

At present, the PDP has 13 ministers. The party will induct Mohammad Ashraf Mir and Mohammad Khalil Band. Both are likely to get Cabinet rank in today’s reshuffle. One Cabinet berth had fallen vacant after the dropping of Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu. There are reports that the party may go for a minor reallocation of portfolios among the ministers.

PDP’s junior partner BJP is likely to induct some new faces into the Cabinet. The party may also withdraw some of its Ministers. Besides Gupta, the names that are doing the rounds for ministerial berths include party’s state unit president Sat Sharma, Rajiv Jasrotia, Devender Maniyal and Shakti Parihar. Party’s junior Minister Sunil Sharma is also likely to be elevated to Cabinet rank.

News agency IANS, citing top party sources, reported that Health Minister Bali Bhagat and junior Minister Priya Sethi will not be included in the new council. It said that while Gupta will be the new Deputy CM, Nirmal Singh will be named the new Speaker.

Meanwhile, The Indian Express reported that the BJP opted to revamp its ministerial team because of the reports by local party cadres and RSS that ministers have completely surrendered to the PDP. The PDP has a strong presence in Kashmir. It had won 28 seats. There were complaints against ministers that they have failed to safeguard the party interests in Jammu where it had bagged 25 seats.

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