PDP's Muzaffar Hussain Baig backs Sajjad Lone's Peoples Conference: J&K may see 'third front' govt soon

After the collapse of the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party-Peoples Democratic party coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the emergence of ‘third front’ to help BJP form a government without the support of two main regional parties seemed an impossible task.

Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Image courtesy CNN-News18

Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Image courtesy CNN-News18

Not anymore!

On Tuesday, one of the founding members of Peoples Democratic Party, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, the brain behind its ‘self-rule’ document, gave a veritable setback to the party by throwing his weight behind the BJP ally Sajad Gani Lone’s idea of opening a new chapter in troubled politics of the state.

Baig, 72, a political stalwart stunned everyone by suggesting in a press conference that he was ready to join the ‘third front,’ if it takes the shape of a political force in Jammu and Kashmir. A member of Parliament from north Kashmir, Baig was sidelined by late PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on the insistence of his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, during the previous PDP-BJP coalition government.

"PC (Peoples Conference) has been like a home to me. For me Sajjad Lone has been like a son... if Sajjad Lone is interested ...that there should be a third force that should emerge that could be considered...should be considered... he should be encouraged because people are looking for something new," Baig, who has served Jammu and Kashmir’s deputy chief minister and a finance minister, said.

Lone, who is seen as the BJP’s man in Kashmir, is redrawing the political landscape of the Valley. His party, through a disgruntled former National Conference youth leader, Junaid Mattu, is ruling the all important Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). And the capture of power at SMC is being seen as the Peoples Conference’s entry into the heart of Valley -- Srinagar, the summer capital.

If it takes shape, the ‘third front’ led by Peoples Conference chairman Lone will further slice the already existing electoral divisions between the three regions of Valley. Observers predict this could allow a chief minister from non-traditional parties—National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party—but with the help of BJP in the state if the BJP retains its stronghold Jammu region till the next election is over. The BJP is now ruling the Jammu Municipal Council too in the winter capital of the state.

Lone, 51, an MLA from Handwara constituency who faced humiliation, mockery and taunts in Kashmir valley on social media for allying with the BJP, has emerged as contender for the chief ministerial post from nowhere. His strong bond with the BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and his personnel rapport with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi could well do the trick for him.

After Baig’s press conference, Lone was quick to react, hoping to pull out one of the strongest pillars of the PDP and a legal luminary to his side. “I am humbled by Muzaffar Beigh Sahib’s statement. A person of his stature, experience and intellect can be the defining attribute of the emerging third party @JKPC_   I remember him as my favourite uncle during my childhood. I was his pampered brat. @SafinaMBaig,” he tweeted.

Baig was once close aide of Abdul Gani Lone, the former separatist who was gunned down on 21 May, 2002 in Srinagar, during the death anniversary of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, the father of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. If Baig joins the Peoples Conference, Lone will end up creating a rejuvenated political block in north Kashmir that his father, Late Abdul Gani envisioned in 1978, when he aligned with Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, a powerful Shia clerk, to form the Peoples Conference.

History, they say, repeats itself. When the political tsunami hit the PDP after five of its MLAs and one MLC openly rebelled against the party, it included Imran Ansari, the son of Molvi Ansari, and Imran’s uncle Abid Ansari. The junior Ansari is a buddy of Lone, a powerful businessman, who holds sway over Shia votes in at least four constituencies of north Kashmir, which has a sizeable Shia population.

There are reports that many MLAs from PDP, who have not yet said goodbye to the party, are likely to bid it adieu before the next elections in the state. A scene like this is likely to become a problem for Peoples Democratic Party than for the National Conference. The PDP is likely to face a rout at the hands of electorate whenever the next election are held in the state. The party’s tactical shift post the last assembly election in the form of the alliance with BJP, will cost the party heavily in its bastion. A simple tour through south Kashmir where on Tuesday only 1.1 percent votes were polled in the ongoing panchayat elections, is a reminder what is in offing for the party.

For the moment the Peoples Conference has only two seats out of 87 seats in Jammu and Kashmir. Comes next election and this is a possible scene which could play out in the north of Kashmir. If Lone wins again from Handwara constituency, his another MLA from Kupwara, Bashir Ahmad Dar retains his seat, Baig wins from Baramulla constituency, Imran Raza Ansari from Pattan, Mohd Abass Wani from Gulmarg constituency, Engineer Rasheed, who is originally from Peoples Conference, from Langate and four others, with the help of anti-incumbency against the ‘political dynasties’ and their failure to deliver on the ground, could make Peoples Conference the “biggest block in north Kashmir’.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 10:57:10 IST

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