On 28th July, the Peoples Democratic Party celebrated the foundation day of its party at Sher-e-Kashmir Park Srinagar. The party leadership managed to attract hundreds of its workers from across the valley. The majority of the workers were from South Kashmir, the party bastion. Despite the rain, the spirit of workers seemed undeterred. Party president Mehbooba Mufti in a green clad abaya roared from the stage and challenged the Modi regime in New Delhi for becoming Vishu Guru (world leader).
“You ruined relations with your neighbors and joined insignificant QUAD. Don’t think this policy will elevate you as Vishu Guru,” Mehbooba told the gathering hinting towards the foreign policy of PM Modi.
But she added: “India has capacity to lead the world but the road is through SAARC countries and for that Modi has to talk with Pakistan to secure the economic benefits from the OBOR.”
From local issues to Kashmir to India’s foreign policy Mehbooba tried to paint Modi’s almost 7 years rule as “Dark Age” for India.
She refused to see any hope, progress and growth of India since 2014 when BJP overwhelmingly came into power and hit the second victory in 2019 elections successively.
The frustration of Mehbooba seemed genuine since she had lost the entire party cadre in the last several years who joined other political parties especially Apni party led by former senior leader of PDP Mohammad Altaf Bukhari. Few others switched their loyalties to the People’s Conference led by Sajjad Lone.
At stage Mehbooba was flanked by some youth leaders of the party and a strategist Naem Akther known as Birbal among his party men for conspiring against other fellows. Akther is not a ground leader and enjoyed power only for being close to Muftis. He has no constituency and he can’t afford to fight an electoral battle. The only senior ground leader visible on stage was G N Hanjoora.
The departure of all top leaders and former MLA’s from the PDP created a vacuum within the party leadership. PDP is creating a fresh lot of leaders from its youth team but it will take a long time for them to have public acceptability. By that time PDP will face a leadership crisis and will have no significant role in electoral politics. This is paining Mehbooba especially when she is alone fighting against the largest political party-BJP.
As per her understanding, her political empire was destabilized by BJP after they parted ways in 2018 when BJP withdrew its support as a main coalition partner.
She doesn’t blame anyone else, not even her Uncle, Brother and other family members who shared their role and tried to run a parallel government from private offices.
Mehbooba said all resources of Jammu Kashmir are shared with outsiders by the present establishment and locals especially Kashmiris are pushed to the dark ages. Their (Kashmiris) space is being shrunk, resources snatched away and he is helpless to fight back.
“It won’t last for long,” she added.
But critics have different opinions about the failure of PDP.
The resentment in the party grew only after his uncle Sartaj Madani and his brother and cinematographer by profession Tasaduq Mufti came into the scene. Madani was caught on the wrong foot when his son was appointed as an officer in Khadi and village bank after overruling all the rules and regulations of recruitment. He was also allegedly named in many recruitment scams including one in Jammu Kashmir Bank and making hefty money. This brought disrepute to the Mufti family in general and PDP in particular.
Tasaduq Mufti moved a step further when he landed in Srinagar from Mumbai and was directly inducted into Mehbooba Mufti’s cabinet. He stayed at church lane after being elevated as tourism minister which normally serves as the chief minister’s private office.
A complementary MLC seat and then elevating as most senior cabinet minister without even serving a day for the party, many leaders in PDP saw his unprecedented rise as their fall. Therefore, the resentment grew which eventually split the party.
By the time Tasaduq would leave the crown, he was first to open the civil secretariat gate for non-state persons. He appointed his friend Anooj Malhotra as city traffic advisor and allotted him a hut for residence at Cheshmashahi. He was also accused of allotting massive contracts to environmental NGOs from outside and ignoring the locals. Similarly, he awarded a contract for a tourism promotion film to an outside firm worth crores while bypassing all rules.
Nameen Akther too had his role in conspiring against others who especially rose from the ground. But he refused to accept their hard work and wanted to control the PDP from his home. The worst was when he was an education minister and his daughter attempted to preside the meeting of officials in the same department. This yet again damaged the integrity of the party.
More than BJP, it was PDP itself that damaged it.
Beleaguered Mehbooba must introspect and understand the present political dynamics if she wants to play a long inning. Post Article 370, the political goalposts have changed so have the political strategies. It is unlikely she can sustain the party’s old ideology in prevailing circumstances. If she won’t compromise her ideology, she must give up electoral politics.