Only two weeks after the break-up of the PDP-BJP coalition government, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is headed towards a vertical split in the restive Jammu and Kashmir region. PDP has 28 members in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly making it the largest party of the state.
A rebellion is brewing in PDP and former minister in the BJP-PDP coalition Imran Raza Ansari is the new leader of this rising front against former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. For the first time, a PDP leader dared to call the Mehbooba government a family raj. Ansari's outburst against Mehbooba, however, has found resonance among many PDP MLAs.
According to sources, the MLA from Pattan constituency of north Kashmir, Ansari is likely to wrest at least one-third of the party MLA’s with him. He is confident and doesn't mince words. "Trust me there is a tsunami coming on the political landscape of Kashmir," 46-year-old Ansari, son of Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain, a former minister in Mufti Sayeed-led government, said.
Rumour mills in the state are at play too which said that the PDP is trying to go close to Congress, which has 12 members in the 87 member Legislative Assembly in case they form the alliance government. At present, the PDP has 28 members and together with Congress and other independent MLAs, the 44-target seems achievable.
However, the Congress has strongly denied any such report and Congress members in Delhi and Srinagar have said that the coalition with the PDP is impossible. Mehbooba also said she was “amused” at media speculations about PDP-INC alliance formation. As Congress-PDP government formation was being talked about in Srinagar and Jammu, statements of some PDP leaders targetting Mehbooba pointed towards new development.
However, Ansari is a real threat to PDP giving his clout and his reach within the party and other parties. “PDP was created by Mufti (Muhammad Sayeed) sahib by collecting people from different parts of the state, but once Mehbboba ji took over the leadership, it became a family show run by her brother, uncles and other relatives. The whole party was overtaken by cronies,” Ansari said.
A Shia politician, who is also a powerful businessman, Ansari said he was not the “only one”, but the thought of leaving the PDP is on the minds of many MLA’s who were treated badly by the party. “She (Mehbooba) was already warned of that.”
While Ansari is seen as close to Sajad Lone and former finance minister Haseeb Drabu, the trio, in case the BJP forms government again in Jammu and Kashmir without Mehbooba, would be key players. Drabu was the man who was instrumental in stitching an alliance with the BJP after prolonged negotiation with the BJP in 2015. However, Mehbooba made him step down as the finance minister after his speech in Delhi early this year where he described Kashmir as a social problem. Drabu and Lone are considered very close to Ram Madhav, who recently said that mis-governance was a major reason why BJP decided to break alliance with the PDP.
Governor NN Vohra, who has not dissolved the Assembly, rather kept it in suspended animation, makes it all the more intriguing, something National Conference had been demanding to avoid horse trading. There is a rumor, although, not confirmed on record by any national Conference leader, that two leaders from NC are also eyeing the new dispensation in the state.
Madhav held brief parleys with the state BJP leaders and the party’s ally in Kashmir and former Hurriyat leader, Sajad Gani Lone, who is rumoured to be at the forefront of a possible realignment of the political structure that may push the BJP again into the corridors of power in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP has 25 members in the Assembly, while the Peoples Conference of Sajad Lone has two members.
For the past few months, Ansari has been eyeing the tourism ministry in the coalition government. When he asked Mehbooba, the former chief minister said that the ministry should to be handled by a senior person in the party, party sources said. When she handed over the charge of the ministry to her brother, Ansari expressed his anger over the decision and told the former chief minister her father, Mufti Sayeed, would not have approved of this decision.
After Ansari and his uncle Abid Ansari publicly criticised the party, the PDP MLA from Tangmarg, who won against the heavyweight Ghulam Hasssan Mir, a controversial politician, told Firstpost that he was ready to resign from the membership of the party anytime, and will go back to his people for re-election.
Mohammad Abbas, the MLA, said he would go "whereever Ansari sahib goes." Agreeing with Ansari about Mehbooba and the way she ran the party, Abbas said, "The party for which we gave our blood can’t be the property of three or four people. Those people who made a contribution where not treated well."
PDP MLA from Noorabad constituency, Abdul Majeed Padder, is also not happy with the party. Padder told Firstpost that he was not leaving the party, but would like it "to mend its ways." Muhammad Yusuf Bhat, a MLA from Shopian, said that he felt marginalised too because he was not given a ministry. Abdul Haq Khan, who was removed from his portfolio, has already mey Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad according to media reporters. He is mostly likely to desert the party.
If Ansari and Lone manage to bring together the disgruntled lot from PDP, few Congress and NC MLAs and independent MLAs after the fresh election in the state, it is possible that Jammu and Kashmir could witness a new political alignment. All the leaders in the state are, however, tight-lipped about any of these developments. Much will also depend on BJP and how the party facilitates the emergence of this front.
This is the real test for Mehbooba and how she plans to keep her flock together. If the party spilt in two groups her presence will be concentrated in south Kashmir, a place where she can no longer visit.
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Updated Date: Jul 03, 2018 15:45:21 IST