Is the PDP Falling Like a Pack of Cards?
‘First lost people, now power’
SRINAGAR: On his Twitter handle Jammu and Kashmir National Conference’s State spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu shared a picture with Imran Reza Ansari, former minister in the now non-operational PDP-BJP coalition government, with a ‘simple’ caption: “Dinner at Barzulla (Srinagar) last night – friends and good food! @imranrezaansari.”
There was nothing simple about the picture shared by Junaid Mattu on July 1 for the simple reason that it made a political statement of sorts besides giving rise to many a speculation.
Ansari is accused of ‘masterminding a rebellion’ in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), his own party that is currently out of favour from both people and power.
“Not just Abid Sahab (Abid Ansari, MLA Zadibal, Srinagar) everybody is saying that many elements had intruded into our government which eventually led to its collapse. We had been repeatedly telling Mehbooba Ji that she has black sheep in her party who will leave her embarrassed,” Ansari told the media, adding that “the People’s Democratic Party got transformed into a ‘Family Democratic Party’ and that is the reason people became distrustful.”
Given the fact that Ansari himself comes from a dynastic political background (The Ansaris), his deride was a massive political statement.
Though it must be said that much before the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made its break-up with the PDP public on 19 June, it was widely known in the Kashmir Valley that “the PDP is divided in multiple camps and the fissures within are too wide to ignore.”
Therefore, Ansari’s taunt against former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti did not shock many. It was always a matter of time before the PDP leaders spoke against their own party and leadership.
Ansari did not stop there.
After serving as Minister of Information Technology, Technical Education and Youth Services and Sports in the previous PDP-BJP government, Ansari continued spewing venom against his own party as Member of J&K Legislative Assembly from Pattan constituency.
“For some time now I have been telling Mehbooba ji that I am feeling choked in the party (PDP). (Hamara dum ghut raha hai iss party main). It is a party hijacked by a few individuals. And it is because of those individuals Mehbooba ji lost power,” he said.
Taking a dig at Mehbooba for what he described as promoting her uncles, aunts and brothers, Ansari said that “late Mufti Sahab (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) had founded the party. He had a dream. He never promoted his relatives in the party, but since Mehbooba ji took over everything changed. We witnessed that uncles, aunts and other relatives were being promoted and given undue importance and favours. They destroyed the party. They destroyed Kashmir.”
MLA from Pattan Ansari is not the only PDP legislator though to have spoken openly about “failures of the PDP and Mehbooba Mufti.”
MLA Zadibal Abid Ansari has also made his displeasures known.
The latest one to join the tirade is another PDP MLA from Tangmarg, Mohammad Abbas Wani. He also made his differences known.
A local news gathering agency KNS (Kashmir News Service) quoted Wani as having said that “I stand shoulder to shoulder to Imran Raza Ansari.”
Endorsing Ansari's statement against the PDP, Wani claimed that Imran Ansari helped the party win many assembly seats in the previous Assembly Election but nobody seemed to honour his contribution.
The grapevine has it that the BJP is massively investing in creating further fissures in the regional political forces in the Kashmir Valley with the aim to “disempower the people of Kashmir” more in political parlance.
The PDP was formed by late Mufti Mohammad Saeed only a year before the NC passed its Autonomy Resolution in the J&K Legislative Assembly in June 2000.
Many key analysts in Kashmir believe that “the PDP was created with a nefarious design to disempower Kashmiris politically so that no single regional political force from Jammu and Kashmir is in a position to blackmail Delhi with electoral legitimacy from the temple of democracy.”
Jammu and Kashmir's oldest political party, the NC, passed an autonomy resolution in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on June 26, 2000. The resolution was adopted by voice vote after accepting the report and recommendations of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC).
The greater autonomy that the NC sought meant that the constitutional position that Jammu and Kashmir already enjoyed before 1953 when India only controlled defence, communications, foreign affairs and currency.
Mind you, Jammu and Kashmir has a separate constitution and a separate flag as well.
The NC's autonomy resolution of 2000 had “shocked” the BJP.
LK Advani, former deputy prime minister of India, in his autobiography My Country My Life, while talking about the NC's autonomy resolution in a chapter entitled “Dealing With The Kashmir Issue” writes: “The nation was shocked on June 26, 2000, during the Vajpayee government's rule in New Delhi, when the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly adopted a report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) and asked the Centre to immediately implement it. The SAC recommended return of the constitutional situation in Jammu and Kashmir to its pre-1953 status by restoring to the state all subjects of governance except defence, foreign affairs, currency and communication.”
Subsequently, the BJP-led NDA federal cabinet, in its meeting on July 4, 2000, rejected the NC's autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.
On the same day, Advani adopted a hawkish stand on the issue and told the media that accepting the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly's autonomy resolution will “set the clock back.”
When the NC had adopted by voice vote a resolution accepting the report of the SAC, recommending “greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir”, the entire opposition had staged a walkout.
It is another matter that the NC also finally caved in and buried its autonomy to hanker after power and agreed to reduce its demand to mere sloganeering and rhetoric.
The NC legislators did not resign en masse when its autonomy resolution was rejected disdainfully by the NDA-led government in Delhi.
Advani answers this anxiety for us.
In his autobiography My Country My Life, Advani minces no words while explaining how the NC chewed up its demand.
“This was one occasion when both Atalji and I had to be very firm with the state’s chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, whose National Conference was in fact a part of the ruling NDA at the Centre. We advised him not to press for the implementation of the SAC report.”
When Farooq Abdullah was asked to “bend”, he “crawled”.
Advani writes that “Indeed, Atalji told Dr Abdullah to decide whether to continue in the NDA at the Centre following the Union Cabinet’s rejection of the state assembly’s autonomy resolution. To his credit, Dr Abdullah allowed the issue to lapse.” (My Country My Life, Chapter Dealing With The Kashmir Issue, p679.)
Be that as it may, the PDP has an image of being a party which has neither strong base nor impressive cadre. The party was a loose association of a few influential business families and some Mufti loyalists.
Soon after Mufti Saeed’s death in January 2016 and when Mehbooba Mufti was still mourning her father’s demise, a group of PDP leaders had flown to New Delhi to bargain the government formation. At least there were two prospective chief ministerial candidates in the rebel group described by one newspaper as “bishops” then.
It is no secret either that Haseeb Drabu, MLA from Rajpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, was sacked as finance minister by the PDP. Another cabinet minister Altaf Bukhari, an influential businessman, too is known for his ‘rebellion’ against the party.
So the latest mutiny spearheaded by Ansari comes as no surprise.
In Kashmir, the graveyard of many a reputation, the PDP is perhaps falling like a proverbial pack of cards!