Face to face with Frankenstein

By K.N. Pandita

Three weeks have gone by when J&K chief minister Mufti Sayeed breathed his last. His successor should have been announced forthwith and the new government cobbled together without loss of time. It has not happened.

Mahbooba Mufti, daughter of the late chief minister, an MP and President of her party (PDP), took time to come out of mourning. However, even after the days of mourning were over, the party took another two weeks to decide that Mahbooba would lead the party in the legislature.

The Governor asked the coalition partners to inform him about the next step. While BJP stuck to the stipulation in the Agreement of Alliance that the chief minister would be from PDP, PDP asked for more time to nominate the chief ministerial candidate. As stalemate continued, the Governor’s rule followed in normal course of things.

When the house of late chief minister was in a state of mourning, seniors of national and regional level political parties, notwithstanding whether they were pro or anti Mufti, visited the house to convey their condolence. After all Mufti Sahib commanded respect as senior leader.

Conspicuous among the visitors was Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader in opposition in the Rajya Sabha, followed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. We may recollect that Congress government in the State fell when after completing his tenure Mufti Sayeed pulled the rug under its feet in 2005.

Media hawks speculated something more than mourning in the air at the residence of late Mufti. In reply to a question, Azad said that he and his CEO had come only to convey condolence and no political undertones need to be speculated.

With 12 Congress MLAs in the Legislative Assembly and 28 of its own, PDP+ Congress could make 40 seats. Four more could be managed to stake claim to government after hanging lollypop to the lumpen… However, any rebound like that could not be without intriguing consequences. The lady had the second thought.

Coalition with NC was out of question for two reasons. One is their deep-seated rivalry bordering on animosity. Late Mufti would not mince words saying his mission was to oust the dynastic rule of NC.

Nevertheless, the caveat is in place that in politics there are neither permanent friends nor permanent foes. The second clinching reason was that if NC-PDP coalition was agreed upon what would be Omar Abdullah’s position? He would not settle for anything less than Chief Minister.

As days passed by, amusing gossips began making turns. The media reported that PDP was proposing at least five conditions if the old coalition arrangement was to be revived. These were: dropping the post of Deputy Chief Minister, giving some important portfolios to PDP, Centre sanctioning two lakh crore rupees as financial package to the State, no raking up of sensitive issues, and BJP reinforcing the commitment of not diluting Article 370 and 35 A. There could be more conditions in the kitty of PDP that did not trickle down.

Officially, PDP and BJP both desisted from making any allusion to these rumours. However, in reply to a question from media persons, BJP General Secretary said that some complaints of PDP could be discussed but only after the party announced its chief ministerial candidate. Hush hush atmosphere prevailed.

PDP President Mahbooba called at her residence in Srinagar a conclave of all PDP legislators including ex-ministers and party echelons down to the level of halqa presidents. She had planned to meet with Jammu region PDP leadership in Jammu and even the date was also announced but it has been cancelled at the eleventh hour.

What necessitated PDP President to summon entire PDP organizational cadres? Is she sensing dissension among a section of the party seniors? The one to one meeting between her and a party founder- member Tariq Hamid Kara is variously interpreted, particularly in the light of Tariq’s recurrent outburst that New Delhi is interfering in Kashmir’s internal matters. We should not forget that PDP is born from the womb of militancy. Any recounting of the antecedents of some of its known seniors will only disappoint the reader.

The news trickled down that Mahbooba will be meeting with BJP chief Amit Shah to sort out things. Does she want Shah to bail her out as internal dissension in PDP is gaining momentum? Actually, dissension within was there when Mufti was on the scene but his Machiavellian handling of personalities and situations had kept it under wraps. Interestingly, the PM did not summon PDP President for assessment of current situation in the State, thereby belying hopes of the lady that the PM would counter balance Congress chief’s visit to Srinagar.

What is the drama going on behind the curtains? Why is not PDP content with the Agreement of Alliance which the party founder and chief minister had forged and signed? Are there no qualms of conscience of rubbishing the wishes of the departed leader so early and so unceremoniously?

It shows the party is in deep dilemma; the proverbial ‘to do or not to do’. What is the dilemma, let us peal the beans.

Emboldened by dissenters within, the separatist and secessionist groups in the valley have tightened their stranglehold around PDP. They are buoyed up by two perceptions. First is that Mahbooba has not the depth and maneuverability of her late father to hold them in check, and second she has all through played in their hands more than anybody else in the party. They know the time has come for them to demand the pound of flesh. The lady is face to face with her Frankenstein.

PDP President’s dilemma is dimensional. Late Mufti Sayeed’s insistence on New Delhi to resume talks with Pakistan was his shrewd way of holding olive branch to the separatists, secessionists and militants in Kashmir. He did not want to lag behind NC’s similar antics. But this gambit is lost to Mahbooba owing to Pakistan-based JeM’s attack on Pathankot air base. The attack has demolished the status of Kashmir leadership asking for resumption of talks with Pakistan.

The rising crescendo of ISIS and its expansion by stealth to the Indian sub-continent including Kashmir has made her position tenuous. Kashmir separatist-secessionist leadership basking in the sunshine of Indian largesse – a la Dulat’s revelations – can hardly prove they are Mr. clean. How are ISIS’ cannibals going to treat them is a matter of serious concern for the PDP President.

Therefore, the separatists and secessionists find it opportune time to bring full pressure on her via the dissenting insiders to pander to their agenda.

A bid for fresh elections, though usually fraught with uncertainty, could swing in favour of PDP but then Mahbooba will not be at the helm unless she identifies herself with the outright anti-India chapter…

The BJP’s overview did not go beyond power sharing. Delivery was a casualty. And of course, the coalition never delivered. Jammu BJP, following its dubious role in AIIMS episode, should not expect bouquets from its constituencies.

This being the scenario, the crumbling PDP and emaciated BJP, both have the common cause of clinging to power at any cost. More skullduggeries will go in forging new alignment. Bandaged in dilemmas, the lady needs to seek advice from seasoned and sane seniors within the party who have discounted India-bashing as the way to win cheap and ephemeral popularity.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asia Studies).

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One week was spent to give time to his daughter Mahbooba Mufti, Parliament Member and the chief of the party (PDP),

The New government should have been formed forthwith;but was not. Friends and foes of late Mufti Muhammad Syeed including political supporters or adversaries came to pay condolence to the family in Srinagar..

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