Making the Speaker a minister is an emphatic declaration that the BJP has thought nothing of giving constitutional decorum the go-by.
The BJP should introspect on why so many of its leaders in different parts of the country are wired so differently, socially and politically, from the rest of us. Even as Tripura’s young chief minister says one atrocious thing after another, the latest to cause offence is the far more experienced Kavinder Gupta of Jammu. Until the other day, Mr Gupta was Speaker of the J&K Assembly. After the negative fallout of the Kathua rape-murder of an eight-year old Muslim tribal girl, which sent shockwaves around India, the Speaker was made to swap places with deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh and took the oath as a minister on Monday. Immediately, he resorted to pernicious talk — telling the media too much shouldn’t be made of the heinous crime at Kathua.
That is likely to disrupt any sense of communal normality that was sought to be recreated despite the sustained communal campaign by senior elements of the BJP, two of whose ministers had to resign after the Kathua outrage.
The blowback of this may be felt not just in the Kashmir Valley, but also among the minorities in the rest of the country and ordinary folk everywhere. It would also further weaken chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hand in Kashmir, where there is rising public sentiment that aligning with the BJP was a serious mistake. That is likely to hurt the already fragile political and security situation in the border state.
But before the political considerations arising out of changes in the J&K council of ministers are studied, it is shocking that the BJP should decide to make the Speaker a minister overnight. A Speaker reflects constitutional neutrality within the legislature even if he came from a political party. Making the Speaker a minister is an emphatic declaration that the BJP has thought nothing of giving constitutional decorum the go-by. And what a deputy CM Mr Gupta has turned out to be — shooting from the hip on Kathua in a deeply disturbing communal fashion.
Mr Singh was reportedly removed as deputy CM as he backed the CM on getting the Kathua crime probed by the state’s crime branch, which did a credible job, in contrast with the rest of the BJP which asked for a CBI probe — possibly the surest way to despatch it to the heap of lost causes.
While two BJP ministers were forced to resign when anger against the Kathua story erupted since they had participated in a pro-rapist rally, Kathua MLA Rajiv Jasrotia, who also attended that rally, has now been inducted as a minister on the BJP quota. This is only rubbing the communal venom in.
It’s hard to believe this sequence of events won’t deepen alienation in Kashmir. What India did by demonstrating solidarity with the Kathua victim is now being undone.