PDP old guard looks beyond Mehbooba Mufti, she digs her heels in

With the political grey zone carefully created by the PDP disappearing and support for the party dwindling, its leadership is “looking at ways to keep the alliance afloat” and “stay in power” because other options appear to be running out.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Updated: April 26, 2017 7:09 am
mehbooba mufti, mufti government, BJP PDP, BJP PDP alliance, kashmir unrest, J&K politics, J&K unrest, modi, rajnath singh, indian express news, india news J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (File Photo)

Rebuffed by the Centre on starting a dialogue with stakeholders in the Valley, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has returned to Srinagar where she is not only grappling with a crisis that threatens the future of the ruling PDP-BJP alliance but is also staring at a rebellion in her own party.

While the BJP continues to play “tough”, sources said at least three top leaders of the PDP are “hobnobbing with the BJP with an aim to divide the party and continue the alliance in case of a break-up… the old guard (of the PDP) feel peeved because they feel a few youngsters are running the party”.

With the political grey zone carefully created by the PDP disappearing and support for the party dwindling, its leadership is “looking at ways to keep the alliance afloat” and “stay in power” because other options appear to be running out.

On her return to Srinagar after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday, Mehbooba Mufti has held two meetings — first with senior PDP functionaries on Monday evening and another with legislators on Tuesday — at her Fairview residence to discuss the latest developments. Barring ministers Nayeem Akhtar and Haseeb Drabu, who were not in town, sources said all others were present.

“There is a lot of hopelessness. The ground has completely slipped away. It isn’t only about us. Our loss (of public support) isn’t a gain for the NC or Congress. It is a loss for each one of us. It is Kashmir vs Delhi on the ground. Black and white. No grey. There is little middle ground left,” a senior PDP leader told The Indian Express.

“She (Mufti) knows it but in current circumstances, there isn’t any option in sight that would bail out the party.” The leader said “even a resignation won’t get us out of this mess… yeh gale ki haddi hai (this alliance is a problem without a solution),’’ the PDP leader said.

“There is a sense (in the party) that the alliance may not survive for long but most leaders feel that an immediate break-up will be suicidal. If we lose power right now, our condition will be worse than the Jamaat (e-Islami) workers after the Bhutto hanging in 1979,’’ the leader said, referring to the anti-Jamaat riots in the Valley after the hanging of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. “No one disagrees with the mood on the ground.”

The leader said the PDP has decided to “become more vocal on issues, start talking about self-rule, demilitarisation etc again” and “hope that the insistence on implementation of the agenda of alliance and situation on ground will shift before a break-up”.

Another PDP leader said the current situation in Kashmir will only impact the PDP. “The BJP isn’t affected. In fact, they want harsher measures to control the situation because that suits them politically,’’ the leader said, adding “we are in serious trouble”.

Although the PDP’s alliance with the BJP is seen as the reason for the current unrest in Kashmir, it is the manifestation of growing frustration with the “middle ground” narrative that was seen as a “delaying tactic” and “not a step towards a resolution”.

“There is no doubt that we misread the ground (situation) when we decided to ally with the BJP. This move negated everything that we had done or said since 1999. Now we don’t know how to undo it,’’ another PDP leader said. “We are not sure whether we will find that little calm to make a beginning. Kashmir is simmering and we are seen as nothing more than the tools of repression,’’ the leader said.

The way forward, according to this leader, is to “wait and hope things settle a bit”.

“There is no other plan. We are seen as killers. People don’t care about risking their lives when they come out and pelt stones at the Army during operations. They want to save militants who are encircled at any cost,’’ the leader said. “This sounds irrational but it is the ground reality. Unlike earlier, there is only one dividing line and we are not considered on the side of the people,” the leader said.

Several PDP leaders and Mufti loyalists said their priority is to keep the party united. “We know that it doesn’t suit the BJP to dismiss the government and impose Governor’s rule. They won’t break the alliance too. We have our own calculation,’’ one of the leaders said. “If they break the alliance, the BJP won’t be in power in the state for a long time because they won’t find partners. We apprehend they will instead split our party and continue an alliance.”

The leader said “the only hope” is that “we (PDP) manage to “reclaim our narrative before a break-up with the BJP… a break-up has to happen on our terms. That’s the only way we will stay in the game. That’s perhaps the only way for the entire mainstream to survive.” Several PDP leaders told The Indian Express that “on the ground, people including supporters feel the party has completely surrendered before the BJP”.

“There are reasons. We haven’t been talking at all. We haven’t asserted ourselves in the government too. The reason for the latest unrest isn’t our doing. We had pleaded with EC (Election Commission) not to hold the polls because the situation is not conducive. They insisted.

And eight people were killed on the day of the bypoll in Srinagar,’’ a leader said. “Then we have had seven per cent voter turnout. It is embarrassing. It is also a rebuff to the entire mainstream politics in Kashmir.”

“Happenings across the country, especially the growing cow vigilantism and provocative statements against Muslims, too have been contributing to the problem,” the leader said.

This is why, the PDP leader said, Mehbooba Mufti was “expecting the Centre to soften its stance and announce a dialogue process” so that “the party will get room to do some politics”.

“We have been saying that initiation of dialogue is necessary to calm the ground. They (Centre) disagree and want us to bring calm before they think of a process,’’ the leader said. “They (Centre) also tell us that they have reports that Pakistan won’t allow any dialogue right now. So any announcement (of talks) right now will be an indication of weakness. That isn’t the way we see the situation,” the leader said.

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  1. A
    AB HAMID MIR
    Apr 26, 2017 at 6:59 pm
    PDP made a mistake by allieying with BJP .J&K is ruled by BJP directly fromDelhi and state BJP unit is also playing it's roll to keep upper hand in its daily affairs.With the result PDP is uder pressure to save the chair.
    Reply
    1. A
      aravind
      Apr 26, 2017 at 1:10 pm
      The elected state government cannot run away from its responsibility of restoring law and order - they have had the mandate. Better they make up the lost time and go tough on trouble makers- whether they be stone throwers or shooters black mailing the security apparatus. This is the only chance for them to gain the lost ground - it is do or die.
      Reply
      1. M
        M. AHMAD
        Apr 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm
        AT THE TIME OF ALLIANCE IT WAS STATED THAT THIS ALLIANCE IS UNNATURAL, BUT PDP AND ITS LEADER DID NOT HEED THE ADVICE AND EXPECTED TOO MUCH FROM BJP WHICH HAS DOUBLE STANDARD IN ALL HIS ACTS, SEE THE RESULT. HOW A COMMUNAL PARTY CAN SEE THAT PEACE AND HARMONY SHOULD FLOURISH IN A MUSLIM DOMINATED STATE. PDP THOUGHT WAS SENSE LESS.
        Reply
        1. I
          IndianAtHeart
          Apr 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm
          Dear , with the split mandate given by people of J and K, what do you think could have been an alternative arrangement for creating a government. Mandate. If they had not formed govt with BJP then there would have been a governor's rule which any way would have meant a BJP rule. Issue is not whether it was beneficial for PDP or not. Issue is that as per mandate peope of J&K have a divided opinion. Parties must try to bridge that divide by talking to people from Jammu and Laddakh region to address their apirations also.
          Reply
        2. J
          Jyoti Sarup
          Apr 26, 2017 at 11:54 am
          Grapes are sour for PDP .. & sweet for BJP .. LOL .. JS
          Reply
          1. S
            Shabih Siddiqui
            Apr 26, 2017 at 10:59 am
            {stay in power}as long as possible PDP opportunists.You had your selfishness making u ride on a tiger which now is perilous for your getting off.
            Reply
            1. A
              Aujla Aujla
              Apr 26, 2017 at 9:25 am
              IT is Modi's gift to India.He is a slave of Mohan Bhagwat.Now you can choose Modi or Sirinagar Valley.
              Reply
              1. H
                Hari
                Apr 26, 2017 at 6:32 am
                The regional parties in Kashmir have always banked on "talks" to cover their mis-governance so that they can shift the people's attention. Infact none of them ever bothered to bring development to kashmir and always rely on Central govt for their party survival and keep giving statements like talks with all stakeholders. Days are gone if you don't do and issue high statements. Provide jobs to the youth, save the schools, restore law & order, check separatists.Show some resoluteness else parties will meet their fate in their own backyard...
                Reply
                1. L
                  l s
                  Apr 26, 2017 at 6:20 am
                  Shame on this C M and her party. They do not want to take any action on the worsening anti-national situation, instead they talk of protecting their stone throwers, seperatists. This is the price they have to pay for being soft on the wrongful activities going on for a long time. What has she done in the last ten months ????? Nothing, except asking for the removal of security forces so that more and more anti-national activities take place. It's time she is quickly replaced with a strong leader who can take on the seperatists as well control their children moving in the wrong direction. Work along with the centre or else just get out of your office.
                  Reply
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