As Chief Minister availed her rights to reshuffle some of her ministers, crevices hidden under winter adhesives gave up revealing that power is not being handled by the people presumed to be powerful, a Kashmir Life report
In the PDP-BJP coalition version 1.0 that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led till his demise in January 2016, Syed Altaf Bukhari was a powerful minister. Party treasurer, he was most active in government, on road and on newspaper front pages. After the demise of his political mentor, a silence took over the Fairview Guest House, located in the middle of the power corridor of Srinagar. When it became active, Bukhari was dropped from the new dispensation. Then, it was suggested that loyalty played a key role in the decision-making.
Surviving with the ‘disloyalty’ tag, Bukhari and a few more continued managing their space in the party and treasury benches. There were many rumours that Bukhari will be back but it evaded till Friday, February 17, 2017. As the guards outside Jammu Raj Bhawan, permitted only one of the three cars that carried Bukhari and his supporters, a new game plan was being written in clouds, far away from the “parallel cabinet” that, off late, is more decisive than the elected cabinet.
The real game started after the portfolio reallocation. As Bukhari was given Education, Naeem Akhter was taken to R&B. This necessitated shifted Abdul Rehman Veeri who got Revenue and Rehabilitation thus pushing Basharat Bukhari to Horticulture. Apparently not linked to either of the changes, Dr Haseeb A Drabu, the Finance Minister was divested from Culture, a small department that was normally handled by a small officer, till not many days ago.
Hell broke loose. By 5 pm, came the first flash: Basharat Bukhari resigned. Newsrooms had barely processed the news, came another: Imran Ansari also put in his papers.
“Molvi Sahab was the first minister to put in his papers and it happened at 4:30 pm sharp,” Ansari’s brother told Kashmir Life. “He says he has personal reasons to resign and is unwilling to tell the media.”
Ansari, who succeeded his father and the powerful politician Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, was not happy with his status from the day one. For most of the first tenure of the coalition, he agitated over the “petty position” but would not cry much because of Mufti Sayeed. But in the coalition’s version 2.0 with Ms Mufti as the leader, he made his unhappiness public, more than once. Off late, sources said, he had indicated to his closer circle that his status is changing in coming days. But when the “day” came, he survived untouched. Straight away, he put in his papers.
Basharat’s case is slightly more curious. A broadcaster whom Mufti picked for politics, Bukhari was initially an MLC. Then he was elected twice from Sangrama constituency. A capable, well-dressed, hardworking orator, Bukhari has been taking his assignments quite seriously. He was law minister and then he became the powerful Revenue and Rehabilitation Minister. All of a sudden, he was pushed to horticulture. Though vital to Kashmir’s future and expected to be a major change-maker, the department has survived as an appendage of agriculture ministry for ages.
“It did not took me much time to decide that it must be the last day in my office,” Bukhari told Kashmir Life. “I sent a detailed communication to the Chief Minister in which I have listed everything. I can not tell you anything because I am under oath.”
Two resignations apart, there are tensions in the party. “Chief Minister should have consulted the party, what is the harm in the change,” one minster said. “Why write news about me,” shouted another minister, “write my obituary, instead.”
The larger issue that even bureaucracy supports is that the reshuffle that lacks a clear reason impedes the governance. Naeem Akhter, for instance, had given education a break from the pathetic monotony that the ministry had undergone since Tara Chand days. Fully aware of the intricacies of the different levels and the curriculum, he knew the issues and had started settling. It did, however, created a political crisis as more and more teachers were unhappy. He must be happy that he got a money-rich ministry but his successor will take a long time in understanding and addressing the loopholes.
Economist Drabu had done a series of efforts on cultural front, more so in moth-eaten archives, and given it a direction. Now the decision-making will go back to the special secretary level, if residual legates in the Chief Minister’s Office will not tackle it for their own benefit.
There is, however, least likelihood of a grave crisis. But the events detail the chronic crisis that ruling PDP is passing through. “When they wanted to work, Kashmir was in the crisis of unrest,” an officer said on phone. “When Kashmir wanted them to work, they discovered a crisis of their own.”
But the crisis has brought one key issue to focus. Who decides? Chief Minister has all the rights to give or take a portfolio. But the Chief Executive has the responsibility of keeping the flock in loop, too. Surprises in politics are normal but shocks are the only option when hearts start beating? Was is that moment, by the way?
At the time of filing this copy, there were efforts going on to request Ansari to withdraw his resignation, unlike Bukhari. There has not been any success, so far.