Cabinet Reshuffle: Know The New Ministers


SRINAGAR: The BJPDP government on Monday inducted new faces for the rest half of the six-year term. For various reasons, the two parties had dropped three ministers – two for Kathua row, and Dr Haseeb Drabu, who was sacked in March.

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Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with the new ministers after the cabinet reshuffle

In anticipation of the reshuffle, it dropped many others including Dr Nirmal Singh, Bali Baghat and Priya Sethi – all from BJP. PDP dropped Haq Khan, the law minister. The political grapevine is that Baghat and Khan are getting party positions in respective parties in anticipation of the elections.

BJP inducted six new faces and PDP got two new ministers.

This is for the first time that all the 25 berths in the council of ministers are filled. Usually, the Chief Minister’s would keep certain positions vacant as was the case with earlier stints of the present government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti. Informed sources said the allocations of the portfolios may take a bit of time. “This is a complete shake-up of responsibilities,” the source said.

Kavinder Gupta
Kavinder Gupta

Kavinder Kumar Gupta represents the Gandhinagar assembly segment in the state assembly. He will be the new Deputy Chief Minister replacing Dr Nirmal Singh. Gupta, 55, won for the first time from the Gandhi Nagar constituency in 2014 Assembly polls after defeating Congress’s Raman Bhalla. His earlier experience in politics was when he presided over the Jammu Municipal Corporation and was the Mayor.

“The party gave me a responsibility to bring in change after three years,” Gupta was quoted by a news-gatherer. “I will try my best to meet expectations of people and work for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. We had entered into an alliance, following people’s mandate. I hope it keeps working for them.”

A graduate of Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar in 1979, Gupta has been the Speaker of the 89-member House since March 2015. As Speaker, he ran into many controversies and, once, he had no option but to eat his words to make his House functional. He has been attending events that also triggered controversies.

Gupta’s famous quote was reported in 2015. “Yes, I am proud to be an RSS man. It is a matter of pride that I am an RSS member but here I am the Speaker only.” He created a new quote within minutes after taking oath as Deputy Chief Minister. He was quoted saying: “Kathua rape is a minor incident and one shouldn’t be given much importance to it.”

“There is no point in discussing the topic over and over again. I said there are a lot of similar cases and this particular one should not be exaggerated,” Gupta said, adding, later, that the case was subjudice.

Satpal Sharma

Sat Pal Sharma is the president of the state BJP. What is interesting is that as their leader it was Sat Pal Sharma who ordered his flock including the two ministers to go and be part of the Hindu Ekta Manch meeting in Rasana belt. The two ministers – Lal Singh Choudhary and Chander Prakash Ganga – later resigned on the orders of the High Command for their participation in the pro-rapist rally.

A Chartered Account by profession, Sharma won from Jammu West Assembly in 2014 assembly polls. He gave a crushing defeat to his Congress rival Surinder Singh Shingaria by polling seventy percent of the total votes. A year later he replaced Jugal Kishore Sharma, the MP, as head of the BJP in the state. Indications suggest that after Sharma will sit firmly in the cabinet chair, his position as state party chief of BJP will most likely go to Bali Baghat, a cabinet minister that the party dropped as health minister. His wife owns a cement manufacturing unit.

Sunil Kumar Sharma

Sunil Kumar Sharma was a Minister of State in the coalition government since April 2016. He was junior minister for Minister of State for Transport (Independent charge), Revenue, Public Works (Roads & Buildings), Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Agriculture Production, YSS. His position was elevated and he was inducted as the cabinet minister. Sunil won from Kishtwar by defeating NC’s Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo by a margin of 2726 votes.

Sharma is termed to be one of the few BJP leaders from the region who is very close to the central leadership. The police have named him in an FIR (133 of 2008) U/S 7/27 Arms Act, 302, 436, 188,435,336,149,153 RPC that pertains to the communal clashes in 2008. He created a history by accompanying a murder accused to the residence of Dr Jintendra Singh, an MoS in PMO, in Delhi. The accused has been declared a proclaimed offender by the trial court in Kishtwar. Sharma dropped out of college and joined BCA. He later was running his own computer institute. He is one of the few BJP leaders in the state who can speak English, Urdu, Hindi and Kashmiri.

A senior NC leader from Jammu said that Sharma has changed his profile after he joined Mehbooba’s council of ministers. “He would always spew venom when he would talk but off late he is silent and cool,” the leader said. “He perhaps understands that his take-off has already taken place and now he needs to consolidate his gains.” Sharma is a staunch RSS man and has worked with the counter-insurgency grid for a long time, people who know him said.

Rajiv Jasrotia (BJP)

Rajiv Jasrotia is the BJP leader who is representing the Kathua assembly segment in the state assembly. A good orator, Jasrotia won for the first time in 2014, by defeating Som Raj Majotra, a BSP candidate. His inclusion in the cabinet is aimed at taking care of the Kathua district, part of which is restive after the Kathua rape and murder of the minor Bakerwal girl. In the earlier dispensation, it was Lal Singh Choudhary who was the major face of this district in the state assembly. Nirmal Singh also belongs to Kathua district.

Jasrotia was also part of the gathering that Manch had organised. But after the public reaction over the tragedy grew louder, Jasrotia kept a low profile. He actually put his phone is witch off mode so that he is not being caught on the wrong foot further. But it seemingly was the same incident that led Choudhary to fall and pave way for his entry into the cabinet. He has done his graduation from the local college at Kathua in 1995.

Shakti Parihar

Shakti Raj Parihar won from Doda. His victory followed the social engineering that BJP resorted to across India in which the potential tilting factors were managed intelligently. Doda is a Muslim majority district but there were many claimants. As the Muslim vote divided between Congress’s two times MLA Abdul Majid Wani and NC’s Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy, Shakti Raj Parihar managed his victory. Parihar polled 24377 votes. His first runner-up, Wani got 20377 votes and NC got 16267 votes.

Shakti Raj Parihar is born in Doda but has never lived there. He is settled in Inderwal. A practising contractor Shakti lives and operates (his office) from a rented apartment in Doda till he won from the assembly seat. He was working in Doda since 2008. But locals who know him insist that Parihar was working in Doda as an RSS man since the Doda Bachoau Andolan during Vajpayee’s regime. He has studied up to twelfth class, dropped out and started working as a contractor.

His last major meeting was with the interlocutor Daneshwar Sharma. “Met Interlocutor for J&K Mr Dineshwar Sharma and submitted memorandum relating to various issues like rehabilitation of VDC’s and SPO’s to strengthen the Nationalist forces in the region so that roots of militancy don’t take grounds in the region,” Parihar posted on his Facebook wall. “Defense Road Project needs to be placed in the first priority (which is kept in 2nd priority) for its early and speedy execution.”

Devinder Singh Manyal (BJP)

Devinder Kumar Manyal won on BJP mandate from Samba, an SC constituency. He won by a huge margin as he polled more than 53 percent of the votes that polled that day. His runner-up was Panthers Party’s Yesh Pal Kundal.

He is a medical doctor with MBBS from Medical College Bijapur, Karnataka. Later, he did his diploma in orthopaedics from Jawahar Lal Medical College, Wardha in Maharashtra.

Manyal, people who know him said, has a sophisticated and humble background. He belongs to Mshasha community of Scheduled Castes who resigned state service in 2014 and contested the elections. His father, a retired chief engineer, was basically with the National Conference. On NC mandate, he contested 2002 and 2008 state elections but failed to win. He later died. In 2014, BJP was facing a problem in the constituency because their earlier candidate Satwant Kour deserted the party and joined BJP. Manyal understood the situation on the ground and joined BJP.

M Khalil Band

Mohammad Khalil Bund is a senior PDP leader who represented Pulwama in the state assembly for the second time. He won by a thin margin in 2014. He polled 11618 votes and his NC rival Ghulam Nabi Wani polled 10587. He was the PDP man who was seriously injured during 2016 unrest when his vehicle was passing through wee hours through a village where the police were making an arrest. His driver lost control over his vehicle while fleeing from the village and was met an accident. He was injured in the accident.

His accommodation in the cabinet is because of the vacancy created by Dr Haseeb Drabu’s sacking as finance minister of the state in March. Band is a matriculate of 1967.

Mohammad Ashraf Mir, PDP’s Sonwar MLA

Mohammad Ashraf Mir was a junior minister when the BJPDP coalition government took over in early 2015. A year later, when Mehbooba Mufti succeeded her father, Mir was dropped. Now he was taken again as a full minister.

Mir won from Sonawar in 2014 when he defeated Omar Abdullah. Mir polled 14283 votes and Omar 9500. Mir celebrated his victory by opening fire in the air.  He was earlier a member of the state legislative council. Mir is an MBA from Bangalore in 1995.

Six Districts Lack Representation

J&K has 22 districts. Some districts have got more people in the council and some have not got even a single face.

Going by the district, they belong to; South Kashmir’s Islamabad district has now three ministers including the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, her brother Tasaduq – though he is from the council and Abdul Rehman Veeri.

The capital Srinagar district has Altaf Bukhari, Mohammad Ashraf Mir and Asiya Naqash. Budgam has Ghulam Nabi Hanjura and Javed Mustafa Mir. Bandipora has Naeem Akhter though he is a member of state legislative council and is indirectly elected. Baramulla has Basharat Bukhari and Imran Ansari. Mohammad Khalil Bandh, the new minister, is from Pulwama along with Zahoor Ahmad Mir.

In the cabinet, Haq Khan was dropped which reduced the Kupwara district’s representation to Sajjad Gani Lone, who is in the cabinet from BJP quota. This situation leaves three districts – Shopian, Kulgam and Ganderbal, without any participation in the council of ministers.

The situation is almost the same from Jammu region. From the capital Jammu district, there is Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta, Sat Pal Sharma and Sham Choudhary. Ajay Nanda is from Reasi. Sunil Sharma is from Kishtwar and Shakti Parihar is from Doda. Rajiv Jasrotia represents Kathua district where from the BJP dropped two ministers – Nirmal Singh and Lal Singh. Dr Manyal is from Samba district.

Gani Khan Kohli is from Rajouri from BJP and Poonch has Choudhary Zulfiqar from PDP. This leaves the districts of Ramban, and Udhampur without any representative in the council of ministers. From Ladakh, there is one minister of state, Chering Dorjay, who is a member of the legislative council. He is from Leh. Kargil is also without any representation in the council of ministers.

BJPs Protocol Crisis

By and large, the PDP remains what it has been for all these years. The major shifts that would be interesting to follow will mostly be in BJP. There have been three power centres in the BJP so far: Dr Jitendra Singh, a MoS in PMO; Dr Nirmal Singh, the former Deputy Chief Minister and Kavinder Gupta, the former Speaker. This trio was literally draggers drawn against each other. The three were battling over protocol issues.

“It had really become very difficult to manage an official function or an inauguration because the three political workers will fight over who is the first among equals,” one political worker privy of the developments said. “While Jitendra Singh would remain busy in affairs of his portfolio in Delhi, the two men would perpetually fight.”

There is a file in the civil secretariat that involves the protocol issues. Speaker would say he is holding a constitutional position so he comes first but Deputy Chief Minister would insist that he is the No 1. “The file was initiated by Dr Singh and it had reached a level where it was to be decided,” the insider said. “Now, Kavinder Gupta, the new Deputy Chief Minister, will have to dispose off this file.”  The insider said that one day, one of them was very angry because “his cavalcade” had been overtaken the other’s cavalcade. It was this protocol issue that led Dr Singh to make certain transfers without at his own level.

“While it is clear that Dr Singh suffered because Jitendra Singh Rana and Kavinder Gupta somehow working towards the same goal,” one political analyst from Jammu said. “But this is also a fact that Jitendra Singh was in Jammu but he did not attend the oath ceremony event.”

There were already allegations within the BJP that Dr Singh has outsourced the “transfer industry” to a group of three persons.

Now the BJP is facing a fourth player which is also emerging as the new right-wing leader: Lal Singh. Kathua’s Choudhary has taken a strong position on the Kathua incident and has been talking loudly about the fact that he had one to the function of Mach on the directions of Sat Kumar Sharma. With Sharma and the Kathua MLA, Rajiv Jasrotia in the cabinet, he has more fuel to his fire.

How will these things turn out? Wait and watch.


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