Jammu and Kashmir: PDP's fragmentation into sub-regional groups seems inevitable

In the political circles of Kashmir valley, it has been spoken in whispers for a long time, like an attack that may or may not happen. But the drama unfolding in Jammu and Kashmir since last Friday is slowly cementing the belief that the regional People Democratic Party is dragging itself into a situation where the tension will be too much to bear for divergent ideologies of individuals held together by nothing more than the lust for power and the party will fragment into sub-regional groups.

On Friday, two ministers, Imran Raza Ansari and Basharat Bukhari, resigned after getting news of the reshuffle in the state cabinet by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on their cell phones. The moment they arrived at Srinagar airport — both were on the same flight travelling from Jammu to Srinagar – they went straight to their homes and announced their resignation.

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

Bukhari, a former radio journalist, was shifted from Revenue Ministry to the ‘insignificant’ Horticulture Ministry. He sent resignation to the Chief Minister office immediately while Imran Raza Ansari’s resignation, who was Minister for Information Technology and Youth Services & Sports, is yet to reach the office of the Chief Minister. Both were cabinet ministers right from the day the PDP-BJP led coalition came into existence in March 2015 and frontrunners in recently defending the PDP-BJP coalition government during the budget session of the state assembly in Jammu.

Ansari, an influential Shia cleric, is reportedly upset over the portfolio allotted to him with which he has “not been able to serve his people” over the last two years. He had been, according to people close to him, pressing for a more powerful ministry for a long time. “He was not satisfied because he failed to deliver on the promise he had made to his people and his constituents,” a close aide to Ansari told Firstpost.

Two leaders close to Mehbooba are trying to motivate Ansari to change his decision but Ansari has reportedly told them if the Chief Minister does not change her mind in two days, he will consider the resignation accepted.

The fresh trouble for the party began when Mehbooba re-inducted Altaf Bukhari, the former R&B minister, again in the state cabinet and allotted him with the portfolio of Education Ministry, which was earlier held by Naeem Akhtar. Altaf, after the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was reportedly trying to explore the possibility of stitching an alliance with BJP after the news of a late night meeting with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav appeared in news when Mehbooba, fresh from the grief of her father’s death, was showing reluctance in stepping into Mufti’s shoes. Altaf was dropped from the cabinet headed by Mehbooba.

“In such a scenario rumour sometimes becomes truth. There was a perception here that leaders from north of Kashmir were trying to come up with an own block in the state. This includes people like Sajad Lone, Muzaffar Beg, Rashid Engineer, Basharat Bukhari and Imran Ansari. This rumour now seems quite a possibility,” Gul Mohammad Wani, a political analyst, told Firstpost.

If that is the likely future, then it leaves PDP with few seats from south Kashmir, which was originally its base. PDP, for the first time, had won five seats in Srinagar, a bastion of National Conference, apart from few from north Kashmir, making it a pan Kashmir party.

But that win is distant for the party now as one of its founder leader, Tariq Hameed Karra, an MP from Srinagar constituency, who resigned last year in protest over the civilian killings, joined Congress party in New Delhi on Saturday. Karra had opposed the PDP’s alliance with the BJP from time to time after the death of Sayeed. His resignation dealt a big blow to the PDP. But now Karra’s entry into Congress will be a shot in the arm for the Congress in Kashmir Valley where it had over the years ceded political space to the NC and PDP.

Altaf Bukhari, the re-inducted minister who blasted the state government recently in the budget session of the state assembly on different issues, said on Saturday that the tension in the party is just a “small issue in the family.”

“It is a family issue. Members of a family do have small issues,” Bukhari told reporters.

But many MLA’s in the PDP Firstpost spoke with blame few leaders, including Mehbooba’s uncle Sartaj Madni and Peer Mansoor, for sowing the seeds of discord in the party. They say that except for these two people, no one else has access to the Chief Minister. Mehbooba had motivated her brother Tasaduq Hussain to join the party, party sources say, just to rely on him for advice but that does not seem to be happening for the moment. Though the party may have weathered the present crisis, when the next storm hits, it is very likely to fall like a proverbial pack of cards. How soon will that happen, no one can be sure. But happen it will.

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2017 11:03:58 IST

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