Srinagar: The warning by former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti to the BJP of dangerous consequences in the event of a breakup of her party has only raised the pitch of defiance against her.
The PDP chief’s reaction that if Delhi "tries to break PDP, the outcome will be dangerous", came even as rebellion against her has grown in intensity and the MLAs have conveyed to her their displeasure in keeping her favorites at the helm in the party. Mehbooba’s attack on BJP is in the aftermath of efforts by BJP to form a government with many disgruntled MLAs of the PDP.
More legislators have voiced their opposition to Mehbooba’s policies despite her one-on-one meetings with many earlier this week after Zadibal MLA and Shia leader, Abid Ansari, said that the PDP rebel MLAs could form the government with the BJP.
PDP’s Kokernag MLA, Abdul Rahim Rather, said that the MLAs were expecting that Mehbooba will call a legislative party meeting to sort out differences and remove "many who have lost elections from the party’s core group. But the meeting hasn't been called".
Although the PDP has seen its core vote bank erode in South Kashmir where due to the continuous pro-freedom protests, Mehbooba couldn’t even hold the polls for Anantnang parliamentary seat during her tenure as chief minister, the discontent within the party has been spurred over "leaving the decision making" to those who were defeated in the elections in 2014.
In PDP, the highest decision-making authority lies with the core group which is represented by the leaders including former ministers, Dilawar Mir, Naeem Akhtar, and her uncle, Sartaj Madni, none of whom is an MLA. Madni is also the PDP vice president and after the party discontent both Akhtar and Madni didn’t attend the PDP core group meeting which was held on Wednesday.
The rebellion was also against making Madni the party vice president, which Mehbooba did only two days after she was elected as party president in December last year. He was nominated as vice president even after losing the elections on Devsar Assembly seat in Southern part of Kashmir in 2014. In order to "maintain the family grip" on the party, Mehbooba had also brought in her brother, Tasaduq Mufti, as tourism minister.
Rather said that the "decision making was restricted to Naeem Akhtar and Sartaj Madni" who were only suggesting that "who could be part of party’s core group".
"I conveyed my grievances to the party president and am expecting that corrective measures will be taken and the policy of pick-and-choose will be shunned," Rather said.
The resentment against Mehbooba was present even when she was the chief minister with her Pattan MLA Imran Ansari complaining of getting a raw deal in her cabinet. But it was only after BJP withdrew the support to the PDP last month that the "leaders spoke openly against the party".
A senior PDP leader however said that at the core group meeting of the party which was held on 11 July, Mehbooba "conveyed that there was no hurry in acting against the rebel MLAs".
But many within the party believe that she can’t act against the rebellion and instead said that the statement blaming BJP for the "party mess" only displayed her weakness. PDP’s Kokernag MLA said that Mehbooba can act against only in case of defection of the legislators and not in the event of "people betraying democratic dissent".
PDP sources said that while party chief removed MLC, Yasir Reshi, as the district president for Bandipora, the other rebel MLAs including Zadibal MLA Abid Ansari and his nephew Imran were not holding any party posts. The PDP leaders said that the party can’t recommend to the Speaker that rebel MLAs be disqualified "for merely voicing their opposition to her policies" as the anti-defection law specifies that the "members could be disqualified if they join any other political group or vote in the Assembly in defiance of the party whip".
The anti-defection law empowers Mehbooba as the Legislative party leader to take action in the event of defection, said PDP’s senior leader and former MLA, Nizamudin Bhat. "Although Mehbooba is no longer the Leader of the House (Legislative Assembly), she can take action against the dissenting MLAs as the legislative party leader," he said.
Ansari, however said that Mehbooba can’t act against any of the MLAs and that they were still pursuing the "negotiations over government formation" and are in touch with the National Conference and Congress MLAs to form an alliance with the BJP. He said that the government formation would be "possible after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra".
"What kind of action will Mehbooba take? Will she expel us from Kashmir? We are not working against a salary of PDP that they will stop that. She can’t take any action against us," said Ansari in a clear note of displeasure against Mehbooba.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2018 00:06 AM