Mehbooba Mufti sacks minister Haseeb Drabu for Kashmir remark; CM asks partymen to be 'careful' in statements

Jammu and Kashmir's Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu was "shell-shocked" when one of his close aides called to tell him that his party had decided to take a tough stand on his comments and remove him from the council of ministers in PDP-BJP collation government, a source close to the minister said.

At the seminar titled 'Kashmir- The Way Ahead' organised by PHD chamber of commerce and industry in the national capital, Drabu had said Kashmir was not a political issue, but a society with "social issues," sparking a political row in the state. It earned him the ire of leaders across political ideologies, including people from his own party. He was asked to explain his position on Sunday by the party leadership which, party leaders said, was in contradiction to their own stand.

File image of Haseeb Drabu. PTI

File image of Haseeb Drabu. PTI

A senior cabinet minister, close to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, was asked to draft a press release to save the People’s Democratic Party from further humiliation, and it was issued by party vice-president Sartaj Madni who said that the "leaders should be careful in their statements and observations while commenting on the basic political philosophy and core agenda of People's Democratic Party."

The statement said the PDP recognises Jammu and Kashmir as a political issue and has relentlessly been pursuing its resolution through reconciliation and dialogue, both at internal and external levels.

Sources close to Drabu said he had no knowledge of "why the party had taken such a tough stand against him" and he was waiting to find out more. Few days back, Sajad Lone, the former separatist and the chairman of the Peoples Conference, which is an alliance partner of the BJP, had defended Drabu for his statement.

"He didn't mend his arrogant ways despite warnings. As if everything he did has some or the other intervention from BJP and Ram Madhav," a senior minister in PDP-BJP government told Firstpost from Jammu on Monday. "He never presented himself as our man in BJP, but BJP's man in PDP," he added.

At a function in New Delhi on Friday, Drabu was quoted as having said that "Kashmir should not be seen as a conflict state or a political problem but as a society with social issues". Drabu's assertions evoked sharp criticism from the opposition National Conference and separatist leader Yasin Malik.

After the statement created political furore in Kashmir, the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Malik, came down heavily on Drabu, the MLA from Rajpora constituency of Pulwama in south Kashmir. Malik claimed Drabu used to talk to him for hours before joining mainstream and while 'praising JKLF's efforts for liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from illegal occupation of India', he presented ideas and concepts for it.

"He in front of Kashmir Awareness Bureau office-bearers including the then KAB bureau chief Ghulam Muhammad Butt, who is lodged at Tihar jail in Delhi from last many years, swore that whenever he (Drabu) is in Bombay (Mumbai), he always visits the ancestral house of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and bows his head in respect for his wisdom about Hindu chauvinistic mindset, which in his words is always anti-Muslim," Malik said.

Drabu was made finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir by late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed when the PDP stitched an alliance with the BJP, in which Drabu played a pivotal role while negotiating the terms and conditions of the 'Agenda of Alliance'. The agenda, which made the BJP agree to some controversial issues, including dialogue on internal and external levels, led late Mufti Sayeed, who died in office, to remark in his first press conference that "he (Drabu) has shown us a lot of dreams, let's see if those dreams are fulfilled."

Those dreams, including the return of power projects under the control of NHPC to the state government and initiating talks with the Hurriyat leadership, were never fulfilled by the Centre. A section of party leadership had grown weary of the former chairman of J&K bank, who at one point in time of his career openly advocated secession. Many leaders of the PDP often complained to Mehbooba Mufti about the "arrogant" style and dealings of the now former finance minister, even with his own party workers. Yelling and insulting people who visited him with terse, dismissive remarks like "what do you know" had become signature style of the former finance minister.

"I am hugely relieved," a sitting MLA of the PDP told Firstpost. "His style of working and his arrogance has devastated the party in last three years, as if he was the guardian of all the wisdom in this world," said the MLA.

The 'arrogance' of the minister had led the party workers knocking the doors of Mehbooba Mufti, and two meetings followed after that, one each in Srinagar and Jammu. Sources said the party workers had complained that the former finance minister was ignoring even his own constituency.

Governor NN Vohra has approved PDP’s proposal of terminating Drabu from the council of ministers, an official spokesperson said, but it is not clear where the "dream merchant", one of the best economists from J&K who reformed the state budget significantly in his last three budgets, will land on his next assignment.

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Updated Date: Mar 13, 2018 07:00:57 IST

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