Mehbooba: Change or Surrender

By Tasavur Mushtaq

Mehbooba-and-Mufti-Sayeed
Mehbooba with her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in this file photo.

Mehbooba Mufti’s drive to Bijbehara today to pay homage to her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed wasn’t a routine travel. The scenario when she left her father’s graveyard last time has changed. Since then, the equations on ground stand altered.

With many turns and twists of over two months, a 30-minute meeting between Mehbooba and PM Modi ‘revived’ the ties and cleared decks for PDP-BJP Alliance-II.

What exactly happened during the meeting that changed entire course within few days continues to be a mystery. Besides if that was the end result of PDP chief’s public posturing, then why the state was pushed to uncertainty? Many have already started asking this, keeping 2020 in view.

During her first meeting with the party leaders after her father’s demise, Mehbooba was seen as a reckoning ‘force’. Many in the political circles thought her to be ‘walking the steps of late Mufti’: Calm, composed, cards close to the chest.

It worked for her. BJP, insiders say, was ‘unnerved’ to deal with Lady Mufti. Some even said—‘ye bhi baap ki tarah nikli’ (She emerged like her father). And, the show continued.

Indicating that she wasn’t yearning for power, Ms Mufti stood her ground and made it known that chief ministerialship was the last thing in her mind. Mehbooba sent strong message across the party rank and file. She even went to the extent that she would fight alone ‘as people, not power, is her strength’.

“I care about the dignity of people of J&K,” she minced no words.

The party leaders after witnessing strong line adopted by the president, decided to leave the final decision to her wisdom.

Mehbooba during her latest meeting with PM Modi.
Mehbooba during her latest meeting with PM Modi.

Next in line was appearance of Tasaduq Mufti — akin to his cinematographic effect. This filmmaker son of late Mufti was insisted by his mother to stay back. And lately even Mehbooba wanted him to be around. Media was abuzz with the news that ‘Tasaduq is taking over the mantle of his father’. His every activity made it to front pages. And eventually, he disappeared from the scene, again—akin to the cinematographic effect.

Forget the party leaders, Mehbooba even skipped consulting her close confidantes. Barring few ‘desperate’ appearances of Naeem Akhtar, there was no interface of party with people. All done behind the veils. Senior party leaders had to swear by God to establish that ‘they don’t know anything.’ The opposition was playing in an open field. Omar Abdullah’s 140 character and job done!

The silence of Fairview created an impression that ‘Mehbooba won’t budge an inch from her demands.’ But the moment, a changed Mehbooba came out after meeting Modi, PDP’s public posturing burst like a bubble. She went on expressing her “satisfaction” over “positive talk”.

So, the question arises: what had satisfied the PDP? Has BJP acceded to her demands of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)? Has the BJP agreed to repeal AFSPA, return power projects, and release political prisoners?

The answer: No!

Even, Ram Madhav is going gaga stating that.

So, what triggered the change… Let’s revisit the 7, Race Course to know that.

It was there, PM Modi has reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of Agenda of Alliance (AoA). But, the question is, when had BJP denied it? Even during four days of mourning, Nitin Gadkari visited Fairview with a message: “We will do everything to fulfill the dreams of late Mufti.”

Modi even conveyed to Mehbooba that issues of government formation will have to be worked out with party leaders. So, is it, then again back to Ram Madhav, the BJP pointman, whom one senior PDP leader dismisses as “RSS version 2.0”?

Mehbooba offering prayers at her father's graveyard in Bijbehara.
Mehbooba offering prayers at her father’s graveyard in Bijbehara.

Implementing AoA is equally important for BJP. What is big deal if they reaffirm their commitment? If PDP is catering to valley, BJP has to answer in Jammu. So the mutually agreed AoA was there and is there. Again, the point is: What leads to change of heart of Mehbooba? What forced her to decide so late? Was the death of her father only reason?

Mehbooba played the card, but she ended up overplaying it. After her father’s demise, there was a ‘sympathy wave’ for her. Everything was at her disposal. She emerged an undisputed leader of Party. Homecoming of brother proved her moral support. Even Delhi didn’t ditch her. It openly showed it’s willing to accommodate her with existing conditions.

But it seems, after posturing for over two months, she misread Delhi. The affairs in her party too weren’t on right track. Most of her legislators weren’t happy with what had happened. Though initially she asserted—I will fight alone—but saying and doing are two things.

Infact, before the fresh breakthrough, she was apprised about the ‘possible rebellion’ of around 17 restive MLAs. Aspirations of the people, pressure of opposition, Delhi’s cold shoulder, eventful stint of Governor NN Vohra as an administrator, no progress report to show if mid-term polls are to be conducted and most importantly, by not going ahead with BJP possibly triggered the ‘threatening’ reaction in her Party.

Her public stance was read as a signal that she would prove that ‘late Mufti committed mistake in the last year of his life’. This all had its impact.

Lately, it dawned on Ms Mufti that BJP is not going to redraw the terms of alliance. They won’t blink. And without power, PDP might split. Late Mufti’s years of politics will be in vain and he will be known as someone whose decision was negated by his own blood. Mehbooba can’t afford to have all this. She turned keener and came to the table with old terms. Bargaining is over. She understands now, ‘Mufti was Mufti and Mehbooba is no Mufti.’

Then, on Thursday morning, Ms Mufti left to visit graveyard of her father. She paid homage and perhaps sought blessings for taking over as the first women chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

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