Lustrous Realignments


Fast approaching state assembly elections have started impacting the political landscape in a way, not seen in recent past, reports R S Gull


Three biggies who bid adiue to election politics.

Choudhary Lal Singh of Congress has been waiting to be baptized by saffron party for many days. Given the ‘big’ catch, BJP top man and Modi aide Amit Shah was scheduled to fly to Jammu and get him into the party, formally. It triggered severe opposition from the party workers. They say getting Choudhary into the party is a bad asset and if it is inevitable, let a smaller leader do the honours!

BJP leadership has bypassed the aspirations of the local workers in Choudhary’s case. Locally, the party sees Choudhary upset the balance but at the national level the party sees itself a step ahead of Gandhi’s.

But for BJP there has been a loss in losing Dr Karan Singh’s elder son Vikramadatiya Singh to PDP. BJP having ideological affinity with the family of Kashmir’s last autocrat would have had a boost had Dr Singh obliged. But he fell for Mufti Sayeed who has been in touch with the family for last three months.

Dr Karan Singh is a Congress leader. His younger son Ajatshatru Singh was a minister in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government and is now a member of state’s upper house. Now he has representation in PDP as well. While Dr Singh is keen to keep his say in all the important parties which convinced him to accept Mufti’s proposal, PDP was keen to have him because it is looked for inter-regional legitimacy which is beyond numbers. That is where the deal became symbiotic.

But desertions and crossing floor is not restricted to Jammu alone. Even in Kashmir, there are rumours that NCs former MP Abdul Rashid Shaheen might join Awami National Conference. Shaheen triggered a controversy recently by attacking the father and the son.

“It is not only me who is leaving the party; there are senior NC workers in hundreds who are waiting in the queue,” Shaheen recently said. “They are disgruntled by the present wave of anarchy that has engulfed the party of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The father son duo is undermining all ethoses and is unwilling to learn from the blunders they have committed.”

A former Lok Sabha member from Baramulla, Shaheen holds father and son responsible for the recent debacle. “I will never shake hands with them. They have rubbished and rebuked the dreams of Sher-e-Kashmir,” Shaheen added. Party sent him a show cause notice and it is yet to be responded.

Shaheen, is not the only persons within the first family and the oldest party that rebelled. Dr Mehboob Beig opened against some of the party veterans within days of his defeat. Intensity of the criticism was so scathing that some of the NC leaders were expecting him to join Mufti but the PDP claimed they will face a crisis if they opened door for him. Before him both the Rajya Sabha members were critical of the governing system. While broadcaster Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri was keen that his utterances should be loud and clear, Mohammad Shafi Uri was slightly not vocal but not happy. Once Sheikh Abdullah’s most trusted minister, his complex articulation of issues in the party has fetched him the prefix of “Vice Chancellor” within the party circles.

There seems to be an instant impact of the criticism and the ground situation. Veterans have started moving out of the race. The ‘top’ leaders will be campaigning for the party but not contesting. The list includes NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah, Congress heavyweights Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prof Saif ud Din Soz.

“We (along with Prof Soz) both will not be contesting upcoming polls,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Rajya Sabha told his party workers in Udhampur, this weekend. “We will carry out extensive campaigning for the party so that Congress comfortably forms the next government on its own.” This was despite his belief that Congress will emerge the single largest party in the state.

While his recent defeat in Lok Sabha polls might be the immediate reason for his decision, Azad has mostly availed the Rajya Sabha route to stay in power. In his entire political career which he started as one of the ‘Sanjay Gandhi boys’, Azad has won two Lok Sabha elections (1980, 1985) from Washim (Maharashtra) and one assembly election (2006) from home Bhaderwah constituency in J&K, the latter he contested as functional Chief Minister. For the rest of his career, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha, a status he still retains.

PDP MPs: Tariq Hameed Karra, Mehbooba Mufti and Muzaffar Hussain Beigh. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

PDP MPs: Tariq Hameed Karra, Mehbooba Mufti and Muzaffar Hussain Beigh.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

The octogenarian Soz, in contrast, has a different history. Elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1983, Soz had overall four stints in Lok Sabha and one in Rajaya Sabha when in 1999 NC kicked him out for going against the party whip and voting for the fall of the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 13-month old government. This made him darling of Congress and since 2002 he has been in the upper house.

The case of Abdullah scion Dr Farooq is completely different. Three times Chief Minister and the longest serving one after his father Sheikh Abdullah, Dr Abdullah has had a full term stint as cabinet minister in Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. He has had a stint each in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. But the 77 years old leader tasted his first major defeat in 2014 at a time when he was not keeping good health. Only last month did his son Omar Abdullah, the J&K Chief Minister, announced that he will not be contest the assembly elections and, instead, will campaign for the party. This, however, does not stop a section of the party to suggest that Dr Abdullah should be projected as chief ministerial candidate, an idea Omar hates to consider.

Though there are wild reports that Dr Mustafa Kamal and even Omar Abdullah may not contest. But, party insiders said, it is highly unlikely and it is plain propaganda. However, the problem exists that there are not many safe seats.

But the opposition PDP that is right now riding the wave that is visible to only few in the Fairview Guest House, has also its share of the problems. And the most of the problems are the outcome of its recent victory.

Election to the Lok Sabha sent Ms Mebooba Mufti, Tariq Hameed Karra and Muzaffar Hussain Beig to Delhi creating a sort of gulf. At the peak of the party trying to identify the replacement for the state assembly polls, came the clan issue, especially from Baramulla.

This victory exposed the party to a new situation. The situation right now is that it lacks a presentable candidate for Wachi that Ms Mufti represented in the state assembly. Party insiders said there are various claimants to the position but wining position is something that is very important. Right now NC has started focusing on this south Kashmir constituency with Omar Abdullah personally going to the belt and telling people that the lady leader “misrepresented” the constituency, given the scale of poor development and the gamut of issues around.

Off late, Omar Abdullah is liberally helping his candidate to stay rooted. Showkat Hussain Ganai has made inroads in a couple of major villages by pumping the CDF in most critical infrastructure.

Beig, the former Deputy Chief Minister, is witnessing problem within his own clan. His brother has left the PDP and might contest independently. His party is not in a position to thrust a candidate so the decision making on this seat has been given to him. It remains to be seen how he manages his assembly segment that is just a fraction of the area he now represents. One option is fielding his spouse, a lawyer by training. But there is nothing final, so far.

If party sources are to be believed, then Central Kashmir MP Tariq Hameed Karra is completely changed. After his win, he is trying to win more friends. Right now, his problem is to give his party his replacement for Batamaloo. His sister-in-law has already got a mandate and most possibly it is his wife who might be fielded from Batamaloo.

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