Has Power Weakened PDP?



PDP website screenshot
PDP website (www.jkpdp.org) screenshot downloaded at 3:30 Pm on March 13, 2016.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP), confronted with an existential crisis of sorts, after the demise of its patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, is missing the plot on another front as well; media management. The party having 28 legislators in the state assembly is not in a position to counter a volley of attacks from the opposition led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah whose party is off late seen to be managing media effectively.

Leave aside propagation of its “ideology” or countering criticism, Peoples Democratic Party’s website, www.jkpdp.org still has late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as party’s chief patron! As if caught in a time warp, which it actually seems to be in, the last mention of its seats in Lok Sabha is of 2009. In its “About Us” column there is no mention of the three Parliament members which the party sent to Lok Sabha in 2015. There is even no mention of the ten-month rule of Late Mufti in the said column. The ‘photo gallery’ of the website has no place for senior leaders and has only a few old pictures for exhibition.

Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti

On the other hand National Conference with around dozen spokespersons managing media from their social media accounts have their party’s website www.jknc.in is in shambles. The website is not updated and shows the party’s vision of 2008, after which they formed coalition government with the Congress. Surprisingly in ‘who is who’ column, the oldest political party of state has no update of recent election results. Living in past glory, their defeated candidates are still MLAs for the party.

The party’s president Dr Farooq Abdullah continues to be the union minister as per the website. The last update in the press release section is of March 22, 2014. When one searches a name in member column for Amira Kadal constituency, the website reflects name of Nasir Aslam Wani as MLA. This is case with other constituencies as well which currently are being represented by other parties.

PDP, currently seen busy in membership drives, and “expected” to form government again with BJP, as per political analysts, seems “not to be in a good shape”.

State’s former education minister, Naeem Akhtar, who was the government spokesperson of late Mufti led coalition government, is the only person who has spoken few times in last over two months of the Governor’s rule. Naeem, insiders say, ceased to exist as spokesperson immediately after the demise of Mufti.

NC website screenshot downloaded at 3:32 PM on March 13, 2016.
NC website (http://www.jknc.in/) screenshot downloaded at 3:32 PM on March 13, 2016.

The party chief Spokesperson, Dr Mehboob Beg, an erstwhile National Conference leader spoke only once after demise of Mufti Sayeed. He was seemingly immediately sent into oblivion after his maiden appearance before the press.

Insiders say, he was reprimanded and side-lined for airing “his views without consulting the party”. They also term his appointment as only “a way of rehabilitation with no significant powers”.

Naeem Akhtar
Naeem Akhtar

With party “losing” its base after forming government with right winger Hindu nationalist BJP, it has also lost ground in managing its public image. The last update in section of press releases of its website is of May 2015. The latest update in ‘uncategorised’ section is of January 19, 2016. The party sources told this reporter that “though a grave concern”, the party leadership seems to be oblivious to the need of managing its public image professionally. They also said that “not a single statement against the party is countered the way it should be.”

“Every leader in party is an institution in himself. They have their own way to express their views and there is no consensus and no single face,” said a middle rung leader of the party. This, he said, is unlike the past when there was a proper media cell in the party which was active in both mainstream and social media.

As of now, there are few faces who, through their social media accounts share links or update developments. The party’s youth president Waheed Ur Rehman Parra, youth activists Tahir Sayeed and Javid Trali are few who use Facebook and Twitter to present their party views. “But that does not seem to be yielding much”.

“Where is this party heading to? They have taken public for granted. Addressing just the workers of the party sporadically is not enough. Media has taken a centre stage for promoting any party these days,” said a management student at Kashmir University.

On the contrary, the former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has managed to stay connected with the world with his “witty 140 character messages”. Omar undoubtedly has used it to his advantages and so has his young brigade of party spokespersons.

Waheed Ur Rehman Para
Waheed Ur Rehman Para

With 1.35 million followers on Twitter, Omar, now in opposition from last over ten months, uses the platform quite effectively and thereby managing to make news headlines. His party, National Conference, has a battery of young men including Junaid Azim Mattu, Imran Dar, Sara Hayat Shah and Tanvir Sadiq using social media to propagate their views on various issues.

NC uses every report, cartoon, analysis published over the current imbroglio to its advantage and to the chagrin of its detractors.

Junaid Azim Mattoo
Junaid Azim Mattoo

Party insiders say that there is brewing resentment in its circles as “party is not managing the media well, with exception of individual management by few leaders”. They further added that “going from place to place is fine, but the time demands mass publicity which cannot be achieved with this approach”.

A senior political commentator on condition of anonymity said that “in ten months of its rule, PDP forgot that people exist and need to be engaged with”. “This,” he said, “will cost the party dearly.”

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