BJP-PDP fallout: Mehbooba erred in sacking Haseeb Drabu, says analyst as Mufti tries to keep flock together

On a rainy April day in 2015, while addressing his maiden press conference in Jammu as the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed credited the first time legislator and economist Haseeb Drabu for "showing us dreams". After all, among a series of political and economic proposals aimed at changing the destiny of the turmoil wracked state, the BJP had agreed in the 'Agenda of the Alliance' document to pursue a dialogue on Kashmir.

But that was not meant to be. With Mufti's demise in 2016 and Drabu's unceremonious ouster earlier this year, the "dreams" suffered major blips. Now, with the BJP pulling the rug from beneath Mehbooba Mufti's feet, it has collapsed altogether, like a house of cards, plunging Jammu and Kashmir into a political crisis that could not have come at a worse time.

The architect of the alliance, Drabu along with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, was involved in stitching together the alliance between the two parties. He must be having a light hearted laugh, the government did not even last for three months after him being shunted out.

File image of former Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu. PTI

File image of former Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu. PTI

Since Mehbooba took over as the chief minister after Mufti passed away in January 2016, Drabu was not in her good books. But he was the only politician in PDP who knew how to keep the alliance intact and his personal rapport with Madhav kept the alliance boat sailing in difficult waters for three years.

"Mehbooba did not realise this — Drabu was not just an able administrator, but a skilled politician when it came to keeping this alliance intact," Gul Mohammed Wani, a professor of political science at Kashmir University. "People like Drabu with in-an-out knowledge about this alliapnce could have played an important role keeping it alive, despite disagreements."

Tensions in the Valley are rising with fresh civilian killings taking place almost every day since the Union Home Ministry suspended the unilateral ceasefire. The resumption of cordon and search operations by security forces on a wild chase of militants is likely to provoke more anger on the streets. This doesn't bode well for the state torn apart by violence, especially in the past two years.

But Peoples Democratic Party leaders say the decision to pull the plug on the alliance and surprising Mehbooba is aimed at 2019 general elections. BJP, however, is ready to sacrifice its electoral base in Jammu where its MLA's are facing anti-incumbency for the re-election. "I don't think any leader could have stopped this from happening because the BJP had made their mind to deceive the people of Jammu and Kashmir," PDP leader and former minister for food, civil supplies and consumer affairs Muhammad Ashraf Mir told Firpsost. "Drabu Sahib is an important leader of party, but it was Mehbbobaji's decision which he and everyone accepted."

The BJP's decision to pullout seems to have taken shape after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's failed attempt to offer a dialogue with Hurriyat and Pakistan during his visit in May. The friction among alliance partners started after Modi left for Delhi, sources have said. The PDP was pushing for extending the unilateral ceasefire, and initiating dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat leadership in the Valley. The BJP disagreed.

"The PDP had failed to control the situation in Kashmir and was insisting on talking to anti-social elements who are responsible for the crisis," BJP general sectary Ashok Kaul, said. On Drabu, Kaul said he was an important PDP leader, even when it came to this alliance, "but it's PDP's internal matter." "But he was an important leader when it came to this alliance."

PDP's loss is BJP's gain

The BJP will most likely sell the 'dismissal' of Mehbooba government as an illustration of Modi's muscular approach towards separatists and their sympathisers in Jammu and Kashmir. It will also tap into the 'alienation' among voters of BJP in Jammu who felt the party was pandering to the wishes and desires under Mehbooba.

"Most importantly, the fall of the government has given a free hand to the Centre to directly deal with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Borders have heated up manifold and the bloodshed continues in the Valley where militancy is at all time high since 2007. It is going to be an uphill task to run the state smoothly," Professor Noor A Baba, dean of Social Sciences at the Central University of Kashmir said.

On the other hand, the decision of the BJP has orphaned the PDP which was banking on Modi to set things right in Jammu and Kashmir. Not only did the party betray its voters by entering into the wedlock with the BJP, against which the PDP had sought mandate, it also 'compromised' its "self-rule" doctrine by wrongly visualising the statesmanship of Vajpayee in Modi.

Keeping the PDP flock together

In absence of the PDP founder, Mehbooba's party is staring at a crisis. The events of the past two years have eroded whatever little credibility mainstream players enjoy in Kashmir, the blame for which can be placed squarely on PDP. That the normalisation of death and destruction, the epidemic of dead eyes, the use of wanton force, all this and much more happened under the party's watch, is something that people will remember for years to come.

"Forget our leaders, even the party workers are unable to connect with people on ground today due to surging militancy. South Kashmir used to be PDP stronghold. Today, it has become a graveyard of our reputation. We sought votes to keep BJP out of power and ended up joining hands with them. How should we justify this betrayal," a senior PDP leader told Firstpost, wishing anonymity.

But perhaps the biggest challenge for Mehbooba would be to keep her flock together till the state comes out of the impending political crisis. Factionalism has marred the PDP since it ascended to power in 2015 and there are talks already of a third front headed by Sajad Lone and backed by the BJP emerging in the state in time to contest the next state assembly elections.

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Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 16:36 PM

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