During an impressive election rally in the run-up to the state Assembly election of 2014, a villager once told Haseeb Drabu that there was a lot of “gudil” for him. The individual actually meant ‘goodwill’ but Drabu often invoked this word later to make his election team laugh. However, as time passed by, it turned out that Drabu didn’t enjoy the “gudil” of his colleagues in the PDP.
With his exit, the worries of Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, who is struggling to keep her flock together, have only grown. The party has lost not only its intellectual capital but also a skilled negotiator who has the demeanour of a diplomat and is a top economist with a pragmatic understanding of the state. To his credit, he was the man behind the first zero deficit budget presented in the history of Jammu and Kashmir during 2002 PDP-Congress government in the state.
Inspired by the PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Drabu joined the party and was given the ticket to contest from Rajpora constituency in Pulwama. Sources in the party say Drabu was an “outsider” in the party of “peers”, an influential caste equivalent to ‘Brahmin’ caste among Hindus. Before plunging into politics, he wrote a passionate letter in a leading daily and his rise in the party was abrupt, earning him few friends and many foes.
His rise to becoming number two in the PDP was primarily because of the trust imposed in his capabilities by former chief minister Sayeed. After Sayeed’s death, the PDP leaders went after him.
“Ask anyone and they would tell you that he was arrogant. He scolded people for no reason and once even told a worker, who had come from a far-flung area, to apply deodorant before entering his office,” said a PDP leader wishing anonymity.
The former finance minister of the state was a victim of backroom politics in the PDP. His detractors in the PDP would take turns to project him as an ‘outcast’ in front of the party leadership. “As such, in this brief period, I got a full flavour of politics, in its fascinating range from principles, pledges, to perfidies!” he wrote in his resignation letter to Mehbooba.
A former minister would often discuss with his ‘favourite’ set of reporters in Srinagar Drabu’s rising stature in the party and even encouraged them to write stories that he was overshadowing even PDP president Mehbooba.
On a rainy April day in 2015, while addressing his maiden press conference in Jammu, then chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed credited the first time legislator and economist 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 with the PDP to pursue a dialogue on Kashmir.
Drabu was chosen by Sayeed to negotiate the terms of PDP-BJP alliance but the alliance never worked, earning him the tag of ‘dream merchant’ among the party leadership. That the Centre didn’t respect the alliance agenda became Drabu’s nemesis. The agenda had talked about talks with stakeholders on Kashmir and getting two power projects back from the Centre, but that never happened.
“I do want to remember Mufti sahib who sought me out and got me into politics. Working with him made me realise that politics is not the ‘last refuge of scoundrels’! Occasionally, people with intellectual integrity, personal honesty and moral courage can also be found here. I was exceptionally lucky to have worked with him. I just hope that when history judges Mufti sahib and his decision to ally with the BJP, it does so in the context and with the complexity that it deserves,” Drabu said in his resignation letter.
“It is a big loss to the PDP. Ignore the fact that he was arrogant, he was one of the few credible faces of the party. His exit has jolted the PDP and it may well be the last nail in the coffin for PDP,” Noor Mohammad Baba, a political scientist who teaches at the Central University of Kashmir, said.
Drabu’s political journey has had its fair share of highs and lows, “successes and failures, appreciation and condemnation, contentment and frustrations, and agreement and disagreements”. “There are many things that I am thankful for, many more I am grateful for and yet much more that I am distressed about. A slice of full life in itself as it were!” Drabu said in his letter.
With Drabu out of PDP, rumour mills are already on fire in the Valley. Some say the former finance minister may join the ‘third front’ when the state Assembly elections are held. It is believed that Drabu and Peoples Conference chief and the BJP ally Sajad Lone are ‘good friends’. Others say the economist, who was unceremoniously dropped from the cabinet by Mehbooba for saying that “Kashmir is not a political issue", is eyeing for a promotion to some key position in the Centre, most probably RBI.
“He will be weighing his options. He wants to serve the people of Jammu and Kashmir but the experience with the PDP has left him bitter. One of his key proposals, the PAO (Pay and Accounts Office) system, that would have hit at the roots of corruption in the state, was not implemented by his own government. It has made him rethink his position,” a close aide of Drabu told Firstpost.
“His career has been punctuated by such developments. When he was the J&K Bank chairman, he was ousted by the Omar Abdullah government. When he became the state’s finance minister, he was binned by the party. But he has always made a comeback with grace and more responsibility,” the aide said.
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Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 11:05:10 IST