NEW DELHI: It was not so long ago that Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was perhaps the most prominent face of his party in Jammu and Kashmir. He was amongst the first to appear on television after the Assembly election results came in to praise the Bharatiya Janata party, or at least to make it clear that a coalition between the PDP and the BJP was very much on the cards.

Baig, who had had a falling out with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2006 over support to the Congress party, coalition partner at the time, had re-emerged in 2015 as a perceived ‘insider’. He was entrusted with talks with the BJP for government formation, and was clear in his statements that this partnership was the best that could happen for Jammu and Kashmir.

Baig who has held senior positions in government, being the deputy chief minister as well, tends to take all the credit with little to no reference to the PDP top bras, namely Mufti and daughter Mehbooba Mufti. This has never really gone down well for him and as a senior academic in Kashmir told The Citizen, “he either talks too much or too little, and tends to fall between the two stools somehow.”

So when the PDP swept the Valley, Baig was talking too much. And while Mufti kept silent, his deputy was seen rushing around trying to patch a coalition from the spoils of victory. Just as reports that Mufti was getting a little irritated started making the rounds, Baig opened his mouth a little too much on the West Pakistan refugee issue and opened himself to attack from all quarters. The PDP distanced himself from Baig, as was expected by then, and he then offered to resign from the Lok Sabha as a Member of Parliament. He told reporters at the time that he had written to Mufti saying that if his intentions were suspect, his resignation should be forwarded to the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Of course that has not happened, but Baig has been replaced by Haseeb Drabu who took over the dialogue with the BJP, and was projected by Mufti as his right hand man. Drabu was more cautious, more inaccessible to the media, and more trusted than Baig. And continues now in government, with “hands in pocket” as it were to advise the Chief Minister and defend the government in the state Assembly.

Baig realised a little late in the day that the PDP had been looking for an excuse to marginalise him, and he gave it to them with his statement for a middle path solution to the problem of the West Pakistan refugees settled along the Line of Control. He had said at the time that he was approached by a senior functionary of the party who said that he had given ammunition to the National Conference and the Congress against the PDP. Baig had said it was a humanitarian and not a political problem and should be considered by the new government accordingly.

The separatists and others, also many within the PDP, accused him officially and off the record of trying to get a cabinet berth for himself in Delhi through the parleys with the BJP. Baig strongly contested this insisting that it was completely incorrect and he was prepared to resign.

Since then Baig has not really been heard of or from. He has disappeared from view, as he did several years ago when he fell out of favour with the PDP for being seen as too close to then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.