On January 7, former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig along with his wife Safina Baig attended the eighth death anniversary of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in his hometown Anantnag of South Kashmir. The presence of Baigs at the function along with party president Mehbooba Mufti left the party workers stunned and shocked. Baigs have deserted the party when it needed them the most.
“Why didn’t you tell us initially that Baigs are attending the function? You knew it but didn’t disclose and deceived us,” confronted one of the workers to Sartaj Madani at the function. Madani is a chairman of the Party’s parliamentary committee. The PDP leadership had no easy answers to these uncomfortable questions since Muzaffar Hussain Baig was one of the staunch critics of PDP and Mehbooba Mufti post Article 370 abrogation.
However, Baigs gradually maintained the distance from the party following the collapse of PDP-BJP coalition government in 2018 and the strong differences cropped up after the contrary position of PDP and Baigs on center government’s decision of removing article 370 in 2019.
Baig attributed Article 370 abrogation to Mehbooba Mufti’s one of the statements when she asserted that India would find no one in Kashmir to hoist the tricolour.
Baig had linked the statement to Article 370 abrogation and said that it has strengthened New Delhi in its resolve.
In one of the All Party meets, Muzaffar Hussain Baig disallowed any discussion on Article 370 and had insisted that it was a gone case now. After the news of Baig’s position came out, the People’s Conference Sajjad Lone and his party even distanced from Baig fearing a backlash.
There have been so many instances when PDP and its president was left in an uncomfortable position due to the pro centre stand of Baigs.
This position, however, has left Baigs too isolated and no political party could afford to own them officially.
Safeena Baig, the wife of Muzaffar Hussain Baig who was until recently in Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference was not endorsed officially, neither she was ever willing to be endorsed though she fully used the platform wherever and whenever needed.
When Baig was asked about his presence at the grave of PDP founder Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, he refused to accept that he has ever left the party but was ‘inactive’ for some time. “I am the PDP, I was inactive for some time but never left the party,” he told media persons.
Baig even told the party workers that he was a comrade of Mehbooba Mufti till now but he is now her brother. The former Deputy chief minister was one of the founding members of PDP along with Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. But Mehbooba couldn’t afford to endorse Baig and his wife officially in the function.
Similarly, Javaid Hassan Baig is also likely to join the PDP in coming days after he was terminated from the party’s basic membership for five years for anti-party activities by the Apni Party.
He too had quit PDP after Article 370 abrogation and termed his twenty years long association with the party as ‘wastage of time’.
“He was offered a ticket by the party in the 2014 Assembly elections despite strong criticism from his Uncle Muzaffar Hussain Baig who was also a member of the Parliamentary committee. Senior Baig was insisting to field his wife from Baramulla but Mehbooba refused and decided to give junior Baig a chance,” said one of the party insiders.
He lamented what prompted Javaid Hassan Baig to term his association with the party as wastage of time despite all the support provided to him.
Baig’s unprecedented political maneuvers are attributed to their long-standing association with New Delhi. It is to be believed that New Delhi has heavily invested on Baigs especially post Article 370 abrogation.
“Being politically smart Baigs know where to stand when. They know they can’t afford to annoy Delhi if they have to sustain and succeed in the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir,” a senior political leader in PDP opines and admits that PDP is under duress to endorse them.
“One of our senior political leaders is engaged with New Delhi who was being asked to pave the way for the return of Baigs and he was compelled to convince the party president,” he added.
The party leadership affirmed that the return of Baigs in the party fold would serve multiple interests of New Delhi while PDP may lose out on this crucial juncture.
The Baigs would be rehabilitated who were feeling orphaned for not having an appropriate platform to continue with the political activities. At the same time, it would contain the secured win of Jammu Kashmir National Conference since Apni Party and People’s Conference has failed to provide an alternative political force in the UT. Only PDP has power and grassroots connection to dissuade JKNC from securing a simple majority in upcoming elections.
At the same time, PDP’s position post Article 370 may get diluted with the presence of Baigs. Baigs won’t speak anything that may go against the interests of New Delhi but within the party fold they have courage to disown or criticize anything spoken by the party leadership. This may hurt the party’s poll prospectus.
Being the staunches of New Delhi, Baigs in Kashmir have yet again proven they are indispensable in Kashmir’s politics. From the North block in New Delhi to Kashmir’s Gupkar enclave they have all power corridors open to use whenever and where they want. Their entry and exit into political fiefdoms depend on their choice and there is no permanent abode they ever tried to have. But the facts are that political parties feel helpless and have no option other than to open their doors. If an opportunist has a name that is Baigs. They never faced the wind but they mastered an art to change the direction. You love them or hate them but you can’t afford to ignore them.