Doomed PDP?

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Between its decision of pulling down Azad government in 2008 and joining hands with BJP in 2014, the PDP has lost the middle-ground that the party monopolized over the years, writes Khursheed Wani

A Cartoon by BAB.

Reaching the echelons of power is the fundamental objective of any political party in a democratic set-up. People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) unique feature is that it took over the reins of the state in a span of four years after its formation. In the two decades of its existence, the party acquired the distinction of leading coalition governments twice.

On the face of it, a party with such a rapid growth with elements of stability should have been poised for a long haul in politics. That does not seem to be. Going by the rapid public disapproval of the party and its leadership and the pace of dissension in its ranks, it appears that the smooth sailing of the party would be a history. The party is in a real existential crisis and no miracles can happen to salvage it.

The party took two opportunistic political decisions which turned out to be historic blunders. The first decision was when it quit power in July 2008 and forced Ghulam Nabi Azad led Congress-PDP coalition to fall prematurely in the aftermath of Amarnath land row. It distanced the party from the Congress that eventually preferred Omar Abdullah’s National Conference to form a coalition in 2009 for six years.

However, the PDP withstood the shock and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was able to keep his flock together. This was one of the major factors coupled with Omar Abdullah’s amateurish and largely corrupt rule that PDP remained a viable alternative in the 2014 elections. It returned with resounding public approval and best-ever mandate from Kashmir Valley.

The mandate in 2014 put the PDP leadership in the toughest situation. There was a tough option to keep the BJP out of power in the Muslim majority state, true to the promise of the PDP during its poll campaign and there was a comfortable alternative to be overwhelmed by the Narendra Modi wave. Mufti Sayeed chose the latter and offered a hundred reasons to support his decision. He showcased a document known as Agenda of Alliance to be a guiding roadmap for the uncanny alignment.

Practically though, Mufti lost the power on the same day he attained it. He was snubbed for talking about Pakistan and separatists, something he had craftily built his political castle on. This was the beginning of unimaginable humiliations he was subjected to. The worst came in December 2015, when Modi publicly insulted him by declaring that he required no advisors on Kashmir.

After Mufti’s demise, the party had an opportunity to quit the unholy alliance but Mehbooba Mufti’s theatrical reluctance evaporated in a secret meeting with Modi in Delhi. That began the second phase of PDP’s trial where it gradually lost all arguments painstakingly built in the political discourse in Kashmir. When dispassion emanates from a pocket borough, the doom is round the corner.

Burhan Wani’s killing in July 2016 topsy-turvied the politics and its methods of handling in the state. It hastened the process of polarization in Kashmir. The PDP had crafted its role between two extreme political ideologies in Kashmir for and against the Indian rule. This middle ground which was also christened as soft-separatism fell flat in the aftermath of Wani’s killing.

Mehbooba Mufti justified the killings, supervised an epidemic of blindness spread by showering pellets on protesters and muzzled political dissent. Central security and investigating agencies got the freest hand. The RSS-BJP received backing to establish base and contacts in the Muslim-dominated areas. Worse, Mehbooba was found clinging to power when on June 19, she was informed by her subordinate bureaucrat that BJP has pulled out of the coalition. She had got many occasions to call it a day but she chose to wait for the worst humiliation.

It is in this backdrop, the PDP’s castle is shaking. It is hardly of any consequence as to who is jumping off the ship. The jumping out begins a new struggle and survival within the tumultuous sea depends on many factors. The people who have deserted Mehbooba Mufti shortly after losing power cannot absolve themselves of the blame. They were partners and have played their own role. Wherever they go, they would be asked the uneasy questions.

How the PDP fares in the upcoming elections for the state assembly and Lok Sabha in 2019, to be held separately or simultaneously, is immaterial for the reason that elections have not been the real reflection of the ground situation in Kashmir. The highly calibrated elections have resulted into the formation of governments, which had the approval of Delhi. Till the last assembly election, the PDP had succeeded to receive this approval with a modicum of public support on the basis of many relevant issues that it agitated. A dominant section of opinion in Valley, especially in southern parts now feels that it misjudged the PDP’s real intent until its ascendance to power proved counterproductive.

It will be a new PDP plunging into upcoming elections bereft of arguments, policy and roadmap for Kashmir. The middle-ground that the party monopolized over these years is gone. It will take some time for new players to introduce their ‘incremental resistance’ doctrines to set citizenship rules for a renewed middle-ground. For reporters, the upcoming elections would be an entirely unique experience.

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