Poor governance record, internal rebellion worrying PDP
The split in the PDP is inevitable. So far, there is no evidence that New Delhi is engineering split within PDP.
By: KHALID SHAH
Mehbooba Mufti, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has sparked a spate of controversies with her recent statements post the breakup of the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir. Her statements, laced with symbolism, reek of desperation and an attempt to recast a new avatar for the PDP.
In an interview to India TV, Mehbooba made a remark about separatist Asiya Andrabi: “Now Kashmiri women are being taken to Delhi.” Mufti was referring to Andrabi’s arrest by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) from Srinagar on allegations of provoking violence in the Kashmir valley and “seeking help from banned terrorist organisation to wage war against India.” The former CM in just a few words expressed her sympathy for the separatist leader and also made it clear that she is against the NIA cases.
In a similar statement on 13th July, she said: “If [Delhi] tries to create divisions [in PDP] and interferes like that then I think just like a Salahuddin and a Yasin Malik were born in 1987...if it tries to break PDP like that then outcomes will be dangerous."
The deeper context of these statements explains the anxiety within.
First and foremost, the split in the PDP is inevitable. So far, there is no evidence that New Delhi is engineering split within PDP. One big reason for this split is the way Mehbooba Mufti took control over the party after the demise of her father, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.
The first signs of rebellion in the PDP came immediately after the demise of the senior Mufti. With Mehbooba vacillating on entering into a coalition with the BJP, a splinter group of PDP MLAs was ready to form the government with the BJP without Mehbooba Mufti. This led to Mehbooba’s deep insecurity about losing the party. To stop this attempted rebellion, Mehbooba decided to continue with the alliance with the BJP. At the same time, she gave full control of the party to the extended Mufti family and the closest aides of her father and side-lined senior leaders like Muzzafar Baig, Tariq Hamid Karra and others.
Second, her government slipped into a reactive mode of governance. Instead of leading the government with a coherent policy, the Chief Minister and the council of ministers seemed to be grappling with the on-ground situation and made decisions in reaction to the unfolding events. At times, populist measures were taken to assuage the public anger and in other cases, the government decisions were taken to bestow favour on the cronies.
In fact, the alliance government made nepotism and favouritism the only criteria of the governance. Be it the appointment of leaders of alliance partners as vice chairmen of various government bodies, the back door appointment of party workers in government jobs, allocation of government contracts to the party sympathisers. This was aimed at making the CM’s position secure — dishing out doles to possible detractors, to keep the party intact.
Post the breakup of the alliance, Mehbooba’s biggest worry is that her government did nothing to provide basic minimum governance to the people of the state. Her track record as the Chief Minister is so poor that she has not mentioned a word about governance, development and public welfare. In the forthcoming elections, clearly, her party will not be able to woo the voters on this plank.
Mehbooba’s attitude towards security and law and order situation was equally disastrous. After the July 2016 encounter in which Burhan Wani was killed, the widespread anger and street violence shook her government. To minimise the damage and loss of civilian lives, the government ordered security forces to show maximum restraint while dealing with the law and order situation. This policy of maximum restraint failed to show any results and the State slipped into further chaos and anarchy. Parts of the South Kashmir turned into “liberated zones” where the security forces lost all control. The police, army and other paramilitary forces could not enter these “liberated zones” due to street violence and free movement of militants.
The seven percent voter turnout in the by-election of the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency and the failure to conduct parliamentary polls in the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, in April 2017, served a wakeup call to the establishment in New Delhi and the State government. An ultimatum was served by the Central Government to the Chief Minister. Mehbooba assured that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir will improve in 2-3 months. Operation All Out was launched by the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Indian Army: the soft policy of maximum restraint was replaced by a new “muscular policy.”
Within few months of the Operation All Out, 200 militants were killed, demolishing the leadership structure of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The so-called “liberated zones” in South Kashmir were taken under control by the security forces, pushing the separatists on the back foot. In comparison to 2016, the security situation towards the end of 2017 was less chaotic and anarchic. But the PDP faced a massive blowback for taking tough measures to deal with the situation.
This prompted another abrupt reversal on part of the Mehbooba government. It took another “soft measure” of withdrawing investigative cases against 9,730 stonepelters. Ironically, a month after this decision, Operation All Out 2 started which continued until the Ramazan ceasefire was announced. The failure of the Ramazan ceasefire eventually led to the fall of the government.
The PDP-BJP alliance was marred by terrible governance record and policies of flip-flops — it kept flitting between the hard policy and soft policy. The hard policy suited the BJP while the soft policy was most favoured by the PDP. This erratic mode of functioning of the PDP-BJP government dented the credibility of both parties. In the aftermath of the PDP-BJP split, the BJP has captured the narrative in its favour while the PDP has been left grappling to find a new narrative, since it has lost the soft separatist constituency it had been cultivating so assiduously.
Against this backdrop, Mehbooba’s warnings of “dangerous consequences” of split in the PDP appear hollow. Burhan Wani, Zakir Musa, Zeenat ul Islam are the Salahudin’s & Yasin Malik’s of the new militancy. They flourished during the PDP-BJP government. Also, the PDP’s position is the weakest now due to the internal rebellion and massive public outrage against the party.
Mehbooba’s statements are not meant to save the party from rebellion but to control the damages. The PDP is also making a last-ditch effort to woo back the core vote bank of Jamaat e Islami which swayed away after the PDP partnered with the BJP. Given the security situation, the likelihood of a widespread boycott of elections, as and when they are held, appears inevitable. In the event of a split, the PDP, can only salvage its electoral prospects with the help of the soft separatist, Jamaat-e-Islami.