Kashmir’s grand old party is back in business, Ajaz Rashid writes
The State’s biggest mainstream political party, National Conference made a strong comeback on Kashmir’s political turf winning all three parliamentary seats in the Valley.
NC President and three-time chief minister, Farooq Abdullah won Srinagar parliamentary seat, Akbar Lone was declared victorious from Baramulla and Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi from Anantnag.
Masoodi’s win proved to be even sweeter for NC as the debutant defeated former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party President, Mehbooba Mufti and State Congress chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
The senior Abdullah won the Lok Sabha seat fourth time in Kashmir.
This was a complete turn of events for both the NC and the PDP with the NC having lost on all three parliamentary seats in Kashmir in 2014 and PDP having won all three seats and sending its president, Mehbooba Mufti and senior leaders, Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hamed Karra to the parliament with Karra having made the biggest upset of them all, defeating the political heavyweight Farooq Abdullah.
Much water, and also blood, has flown through Jhelum since then with the blood of the civilians becoming the reason for Mehbooba’s fall from grace.
Most people who voted against the PDP in south Kashmir’s parliamentary constituency blamed Mehbooba for entering into an alliance with BJP and helping them carry out the ‘persecution of Kashmiris’ under the ‘Operation All Out’. Most of them referred to her notorious ‘milk-toffee’ comment wherein she blamed the children killed by troops and Police during 2016 uprising for venturing out and leading to ‘provocation’.
However, PDP’s anti-Kashmir and anti-Kashmiris’ policies are not the sole reason for NC’s comeback from behind. The credit for the party’s turnaround also goes to its Vice President and former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who several times, by way of his political acumen, displayed to the people that he was trying his best to keep the BJP out of the State’s power corridors by first offering support to the former chief minister and PDP founder, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and after his death to his daughter.
While Omar’s offer both the times could have been only symbolic, the PDP ruled out any alliance with the NC and entered into the wedlock with the BJP.
Considered to be the North Pole-South Pole alliance for the diagrammatically-opposite political ideologies of the two parties, PDP ended up being the loser, which the results of the 2019 parliamentary polls proved with BJP retaining both the seats in Jammu as well as a seat in the cold desert region of Ladakh.
The PDP, which proved to be the B team of BJP during its alliance with the rightwing party was decimated at the hustings for this very image.
People realized that the party’s slogans on Kashmir were just a rhetoric and nothing more as they preferred to go with the BJP not once but twice, throwing the age-old cliche of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ to the winds.
Mehbooba’s running of political affairs with her kitchen cabinet comprising his maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, confidante Naeem Akhtar, relatives Farooq Andrabi, Sajad Mufti and Peerzada Mansoor, and brother Tassaduq Mufti proved to be a costly affair not only for the party but also for the State.
Her kitchen cabinet was instrumental in promoting corruption, nepotism and mediocrity with her cousin, At root Madani, son of Sartaj Madani, being selected for a job in Khadi Village and Industries Board (KVIB) even without sitting in the exams.
Her brother, Tassaduq Mufti, a filmmaker by profession, was instrumental in handing over contracts worth lakhs of rupees to the kins of his friends in the industry.
However, the PDP’s death blow came for promoting incompetence with people like Naeem Akhtar being handed over important ministry like the Public Works. He proved to be a disaster with the government failing to complete even a mere 2.5 km flyover in its entire term that too despite the fact that the work on the project had been started in the previous government led by Omar Abdullah. Akhtar’s only qualification for being handed over the plum ministry was he had been a close confidante of late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and planting stories against previous governments while being a bureaucrat.
The failure of delivering on the governance front is not the only blame on Akhtar. Almost all the politicians who left PDP blamed Akhtar for his machinations of creating discord and animosity among the party leaders.
“PDP is Taliban and Naeem Sahab is our Osama bin Laden and like the Taliban, PDP will prefer to be bombed to annihilation rather than handover our Osama bin Laden – Naeem Sahab,” a senior PDP leader said on why Mehbooba had so far failed to take any action against the person responsible for destroying the party.
Akhtar though was not the party’s only infant terrible – Muzaffar Baig, Haseeb Drabu and Altaf Bukhari being a few others.
According to sources, it is Baig whose advice of implementing a ban on Jama’at-e-Islamia, Government of India took despite the fact that the socio-politico-religious outfit has long back denounced violence as a means of resolving the Kashmir issue.
The links of former finance ministers Haseeb Drabu with Nagpur are well known with the former being close to BJP General Secretary, Ram Madhav and the later having openly led a rebellion backed by BJP against Mehbooba to become the chief minister after her father died.
This way PDP’s own battles within coupled with the failure of Mehbooba Mufti as an administrator in reining in the trigger-happy troops was instrumental in digging the party’s own grave.
Omar’s suave politics of giving an impression of placing Kashmir before his own political future just rubbed it in for the PDP, ensuring the PDP decimation and the NC’s comeback.