Former Jammu & Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who was sacked by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from the cabinet for his remarks that Kashmir is “not a political issue” but “a society which has social issues right now”, was a key figure in stitching the PDP-BJP alliance after state elections in 2014. A favourite of the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Drabu was made the finance minister after he impressed the former CM when he was economic adviser to the PDP government between January 2003 and 2008.
Haseeb Drabu, MLA from Pulwama district’s Rajpora constituency, started his career in 1990 with the Planning Commission of India and then served as consultant to the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister. Drabu was also associated with the Tenth Finance Commission and was a consultant to Asian Development Bank.
However, the 53-year-old economist’s political career kickstarted after the 2002 J&K Assembly elections when the PDP-Congress coalition came to power and he was made the chief economic adviser. Later, he served as the CEO of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank from 2005 to 2010, but was sacked soon after the National Congress government came to power in 2008. Then CM Omar Abdullah asked Drabu to put in his papers, with sources saying he was turfed out because of his close links to PDP.
Drabu was made J&K’s finance minister by late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed after the PDP formed an alliance with BJP following the 2014 state elections. Drabu played an instrumental role while negotiating the terms and conditions of the agenda of the alliance. The agenda, which made the BJP agree to some issues, led late Mufti Sayeed to remark in his first press conference after government formation that, “Drabu has shown us a lot of dreams, let’s see if those dreams are fulfilled”.
However, the uneasiness in relations with Mehbooba Mufti crept in after Drabu’s wife had charged the CM in 2015 with “killing of children, criminal blinding and maiming of protesters, besides shameless suffocating of an entire population” during the violence following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Moreover, a section of party leadership was miffed with the arrogant style of functioning of Drabu, who they alleged used insulting and terse remarks while communicating with party members.
Drabu was one PDP leader who, sources said, had access to BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, handling the state for his party, BJP president Amit Shah and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The sacking of Drabu underlines sharp fissures within the PDP at a time when Mufti has publicly upped the demand for talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and her party has been at loggerheads with partner BJP over several issues.