The Peoples Democratic Party, which was in power with the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party until recently, is crumbling like a house of cards. Chasfeeda Shah reports why.
Imran Ansari, Haseeb Drabu, Basharat Bukhari, Javaid Mustafa Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Muhammad Abbas Wani, Peer Muhammad Hussain, the list of leaders leaving the party ahead of the 2019 Legislative Assembly elections and parliamentary polls is getting longer and longer for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party is falling apart like a house of cards.
The list of party leaders leaving PDP may not have ended yet with many other dissenters including Dilawar Mir and his son Yawar Mir, who are relatives of Altaf Bukhari and very close to him, Muhammad Ashraf Mir, Abdul Haq Khan, Yasir Reshi too keeping cards close to their chest.
Muzaffar Hussain Baig may, for the time being, have stayed put in PDP but his close association to Peoples Conference (PC) Chairman, Sajad Gani Lone is known to everyone.
In the past, the party had already lost veteran politicians and the party founders including Tariq Hameed Karra, and Ghulam Hassan Mir.
While most of the party leaders in leaving PDP have not expressed resentment against the party president, Mehbooba Mufti, they, however, have openly blamed her coterie for the party’s decline.
The former PDP leaders, cabinet ministers and lawmakers, who abandoned the party accused that for Mehbooba, her “coterie” was more important than party.
Congress leader Tariq Hameed Karra, who was the first senior leader to quit PDP, said he had foretold the PDP founder Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti that the “coterie” comprising new entrants Syed Altaf Bukhari, Naeem Akhtar, Haseeb Drabu and some others would use the party and then desert them.
“The coterie that joined the party after 2008 was not associated with the idea on which PDP was formed. They forced the party to enter into an alliance with BJP and then left PDP when it needed them,” said Karra, one of the founding members of PDP.
Karra, who is now in Congress, said he left the party as it was a “burning house”.
“I had termed this coterie as ‘gravediggers of the party’. That is what they did. A new coterie is still digging the grave for the party,” he said.
Karra said people like Haseeb Drabu, Imran Ansari and Syed Altaf Bukhari were also accorded shoes much bigger than what they could fit into.
“I cautioned Mufti (Sayeed) sahab before 2014 polls against bringing in bureaucrats and technocrats into the party. I told him they have no conviction for the ideals of PDP. But he didn’t listen,” Karra said. “I was balancing the balancing valve which had kept the coterie in check.”
He said these people who were being referred as “senior leaders” had no political base till the previous government.
“Haseeb Drabu was adjusted after Syed Bashir was given mandate from Rajpora,” Karra said.
Former PDP leader and architect of PDP-BJP’s Common Minimum Programme, the Agenda of Alliance (AoA), Haseeb Drabu said he along with other leaders, who quit PDP, were pushed out by the party.
“I parted ways in a dignified and an honourable way after having realised that there was no space for me there,” Drabu said.
Earlier, Drabu hit out at her former boss and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti after she termed the PDP deserters as “garbage”.
“This is a rather impersonal & indeed a charitable way to look at it! Cruel as the world of politics may be, the graveyard of reputations as Kashmir might be, this speaks more about the lack of personal grace, political maturity & leadership gravitas. It is not just sad but hurtful,” Drabu wrote on Twitter reacting to the PDP chief’s comment.
Drabu, who was the finance minister in the Mehbooba-led government, also resigned from the party last year.
In April last year, Mehbooba sacked Drabu as the finance minister after his comments at an event in New Delhi were found to be not in line with the party’s stand vis-à-vis Kashmir issue.
After the fall of the PDP-BJP government, Drabu could not find a place in the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party.
He later, declined the membership of the PAC citing that the yardstick applied to select members of the committee was “appeasement” and “atonement”.
Former PDP minister and three-time MLA, Javaid Mustafa Mir said the senior leaders in the party including him gradually became juniors while the new entrants became seniors.
“The situation changed dramatically after Mufti (Sayeed) sahab’s demise. The inner room leaders or the coterie became more vocal and powerful,” he said.
Mir said he had to leave the party after he felt that he was not being consulted or being taken onboard.
“Initially when I joined PDP in 2002, there were few leaders only who used to debate on everything. Mufti sahab always asked us to clear all issues, if any, with anybody including Mehboobaji,” Mir said.
He said Mehbooba has told someone that he had left them despite her making him a cabinet minister.
“But I will like to tell her that I won my seat and nominated her as CM,” Mir said.
Former cabinet minister Imran Reza Ansari and his uncle Abid Ansari who were both MLAs in the last assembly on the PDP tickets have been critical of the “family rule” and “nepotism”.
The nephew-uncle duo, who went on to join PC, have been alleging that the party and previous government was hijacked by Mehbooba Mufti’s maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, brother Tassaduq Mufti, Naeem Akhther and Peerzada Mansoor Hussain.
Abid Ansari’s comments on Naeem Akhter indulging in “corruption” went on to take shape of a legal battle between the two with a local court recently issuing an arrest warrant against Abid.
Syed Basharat Bukhari, who was also sacked by the party a day before he joined NC, said the pivotal reason for leaders not associating with the PDP they built was that there were people in the party who were conspiring against their own colleagues.
“An atmosphere of infighting, pulling each other down and continuous backbiting had developed inside PDP,” Bukhari said. “The aspirations of the people who had voted PDP to power were put on the backburner. And when the leaders indulge in fighting and conspiring against each other then how can the demands and aspirations of the people be taken up.”
Bukhari had resigned as a cabinet minister in 2017 only to be back after assurances of Mehbooba that she would take care of all the issues that he raised.
Peer Muhammad Hussain, another former PDP leader and a confidante of Mufti Sayeed said that during the PDP-BJP government everything was run by Mehbooba Mufti’s “coterie”.
“The ministers had no power. Ninety percent of them were dissatisfied with the functioning of the government and the party,” Hussain said. “The seniors were sidelined by Mehbooba Mufti’s coterie which still calls shots in the PDP.”
Hussain resigned as Vice Chairman of the Wakf Board in 2017 after differences between him and “Mehbooba Mufti’s coterie” escalated.
Interestingly, Hussain was sacked a day before his joining National Conference (NC).
Hussain’s son-in-law Peerzada Mansoor Hussain is believed to be a confidante of Mehbooba and is accused of calling the shots in the previous government even though he had lost his assembly seat of Shangus in Anantnag.
Now, Shangus assembly segment is likely to witness a contest between Mansoor from PDP and his father-in-law Peer Muhammad Hussain from NC.
Former PDP MLA and incumbent Peoples Conference (PC) leader Muhammad Abbas Wani said, “It is the coterie which has brought PDP here. Naeem Akhter did many things against me. I left the party because of him.”
He said the party had been dented publicly and internally by “Mehbooba’s coterie” who was, in reality, running the previous government.
Right now the party seems to be falling like a pack of cards and if Mehbooba would not stem the rot and run PDP like a party instead of a kitchen cabinet, the party may end up being another Awami National Conference that lives in history.