Takeover by a new PDP-BJP government was extra-ordinary phenomenon. After three months of tense wait and intense interactions between the allies, the new government marked not only a generation shift but also a historic gender change at the top level. In the new dispensation many people were in news for completely different reasons. Masood Hussain details nine persons who proved newsier than others in the latest power shift
Ms Mehbooba Mufti
Regardless of the party and the politics, Ms Mehbooba Mufti’s takeover as the Chief Executive of J&K is a millennium shift as she is the first woman ruler in almost 1000 years. But the gender shift also symbolizes a generation shift because she has to work with the flock that her father shepherded.
Ms Mufti who has worked with most of the top leaders in creating and sustaining the party she inherited had the initial challenge in making herself prepare for a new role. From street politics, an opposition leader and a party president, this is her first chance to be in the seat of governance. She took her time in donning the new role. While keeping almost everybody at bay and permitting them into Fairview only when they are needed, Ms Mufti created the mandatory gap quite early.
The second challenge to her was whether or not she can resist the temptation of power. She experimented with it and that proved frustrating for her ally. Then she literally re-negotiated the ‘unpopular decision’. Despite serious issues, she did it finally and succeeded. This, however, remains to be seen what she got in protracted efforts, other than assurances.
Third issue was, if she could say ‘no’ to the routine. She dropped four ministers, some of them very important to manage the public perception about her capacity as a leader.
Finally holding the top position, Ms Mufti now seeks suggestions but decides herself. The first shock to her party was on oath taking when she kept them awake guessing about their future. Too early to judge, but this has seemingly tightened her council of ministers and made things slightly easy for her. But there are two things that can throw a spanner – the unpredictability of Kashmir situation and the inherent problems associated with alliance. NIT issue, apparently small, has snowballed into a crisis that Delhi is dealing directly. Without loud thinking on the issue, Ms Mufti apparently contained the mess.
Ms Mufti is perhaps J&K’s first chief executive who got the top job with apparently no direct experience of managing power in the history of Kashmir. Will this impact her governance, remains to be seen.
Syed Altaf Bukhari
Business tycoon Syed Altaf Bukhari had premonition of the happenings. In the last few days before the new government was sworn in, he was busy trying his best to retain his Mufti-era status. Eventually he failed.
A long time PDP treasurer, Bukhari had emerged as party’s main urban face since September 2014. He was even seen as representative of the bourgeoisie.
His problems with his party started post-2014 floods when PDP removed his relative and friend Mohammad Dilawar Mir as party’s secretary general after CBI formally charge-sheeted him for an old case. Later, Bukhari was key factor in deciding the mandate of various north Kashmir constituencies and most of Srinagar.
As Mufti Sayeed was busy negotiating an alliance with BJP, Bukhari had assumed a public posture that he was not supportive of the idea. After being indicted as Works Minister, Bukhari was the most visible face on the street. His efforts to literally takeover the city leadership was the main reason why Tariq Hameed Karra took it with a pinch of salt. By then, however, he had emerged one of the powerful PDP “factions” who would intervene on key affairs.
After Mufti’s demise when Ms Mufti went into protracted mourning and seemingly exhibited disinterest in continuing with the “unpopular” alliance, Bukhari would host his colleagues at home. Within days, he was seen active on his resolve to prevent another election and to have a next government. PDP insiders, however, say he was working on creating a new grouping within PDP that could support a PDP-BJP government if Ms Mufti decided against leading it.
Javed Mustafa Mir
Axing of Javed Mustaf Mir has shocked PDP within. Plain-speaking, straight-forward Mir has been PDP’s loyal soldier. Honest and not rich, Fairview would always remain sensitive and concerned towards him.
Though he was the first person to speak against the idea of not having the government in a meeting that Ms Mufti presided after her father’s demise, Mir’s exclusion from the cabinet is linked more to his style of working than his work and its outcome. There were not many takers for Mir as minister in state’s bureaucracy.
Mir is an interesting politician. Orphaned by militancy, Mir had to put in a lot of struggle to get back on rails. Severely security conscious, he has rarely been without a gun or a pistol. Sometimes, he would even be seen with the walkie-talkie of his security officer. Once, his entry into the legislature with his fully loaded gun became an issue. Then, he was hurt while cleaning his gun as he hit himself. Many times, the lawmaker has taken law into his own hands within and outside his office. Only last fortnight, he was driven to hospital with a small spoon stuck in his throat.
Chadoora, his constituency, however, has been more gracious to him than his party. They trusted him throughout for his honesty and bravery. Since 2002, Chadoora was represented by Mir. As Revenue Minister in Mufti’s last stint of 10 months, Mir was accused of inaction when Jammu, Udhampur, Samba and Kathua districts were purged from Muslim revenue officials.
Tariq Hameed Karra
Scion of Srinagar’s Karra family, Tariq Hameed has been one of the best political workers of PDP. Initially he was the lone city face that helped him to emerge as a key cabinet minister holding UEED and later Finance portfolio in 2002-08 era. Accused of being the gam-e-party, the party of the villagers, PDP took Srinagar seriously after 2008.
In its efforts to manage inroads in Srinagar, various interest groups emerged. This evolved as a challenge for Karra’s political career and created a situation that he felt isolated. At one point of time, he was accused of hobnobbing with other parties, an allegation he rejected.
As the last Lok Sabha elections approached, Karra bounced back. He was given the mandate for central constituency of Srinagar. He worked hard, day and night, for two months shuttling between Kangan and Chrar-e-Sharief. Eventually he won defeating none other than Dr Farooq Abdullah. But the ‘king slayer’ felt he did not get the say in his party as he should have got. After winning, he got the impression that as if the Lok Sabha mandate for him was aimed at concluding his political career.
After assembly election in which his one loyalist, other than his sister-in-law and minister Asiya Naqash became an MLA, Karra was initially happy. Soon, the old tensions between him and the party snowballed into a major crisis. He took a position against PDP’s alliance with BJP. Later, when Mufti passed away, Karra was back to the party fold. Soon, Ms Mufti was seen flanked by Karra and Muzaffar Hussain Baig. The crisis was back once the oath-taking was over.
Karra has stated that he had suggested the party president against inducting three men – Dr Drabu, Naeem Akhter and Altaf Bukhari. He says the trio was conspiring against her. Unlike Bukhari, who spoke loudly against him and termed him a chameleon, Drabu and Akhter have not reacted at all. Angry, Karra has gone back to Delhi. Insiders in the party said he was keen to return to state politics but party was unwilling to open an additional front for by-election in Srinagar. The party has to fight two elections – one Lok Sabha and one assembly, for the seats that were left vacant by Mehbooba’s takeover as Chief Minister and demise of her father. Karra’s well-wishers say his diatribe has hurt him more than the PDP.
Sajad Gani Lone
The angry Lone, who was projected as the most articulate voice of resistance at the peak of 2010 unrest, changed his own political history by announcing in 2014 that he has “social relations” with BJP for more than a decade.
Son of assassinated separatist Abdul Gani Lone, he is sharing his political legacy with his elder brother Bilal, a member of Hurriyat Conference (m). Sajad fielded proxy candidates in 2002 polls and later contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well. Later in the assembly polls, he fielded a number of candidates and eventually won two berths.
Having been assured on certain fronts by Prime Minister Modi, whom he met in November 2014, Lone had a theatrical entry into Mufti Sayeed led PDP-BJP alliance in March 2015. He wanted more than what BJP was offering and it trigged a mess forcing him to leave Jammu. It was barely 15 hours before the oath-taking that Lone started his risky long drive on dilapidated road with shooting stones and land-slides to reach Jammu.
When he was given Animal Husbandry ministry, he thought it unsuitable to his status. After many weeks, after his friends gave him the idea of the size of the ministry and the potential it had, he reluctantly took over. But he could not contribute much in the 10 months.
In the three months of governor’s rule during which allies PDP and BJP were discussing, Sajad was hotly being discussed in the living rooms in Jammu and Srinagar. But having some experience in formal politics, Lone did not cross his line.
When Ms Mehbooba finally re-stitched the alliance with BJP, he was in again. Again, the portfolio issue cropped up. He was assured for Health portfolio. But he was announced as Social Welfare Minister. Angry, Lone agitated. Then he sent a resignation to BJP which is still hanging in fire. Lone is in Delhi again. One report said his resignation has not been accepted.
During the last three months when PDP and BJP were trying to pick up the threads, Naeem Akhter was camping in Jammu. This had given his detractors an axe to grind against him. Part of this was rooted in the 10-months of Mufti government in which he was seen as a power centre allegedly settling his own scores in the bureaucracy, a clan he left voluntarily in 2009.
But once the tensions were over, Akhter was back to business. He re-emerged unscathed with the same set of responsibilities he earlier had. He is perhaps the only PDP member from the legislative council who is in the cabinet.
Akhter, who has passion for writing political commentary (he used various pen names till he resigned from the government) has been party’s sole spokesperson for most of its existance. In fact, one of his essays in a local newspaper, many years back, led one of his readers to send him a ticket to Mecca for Umrah. In Ms Mufti’s government, Akhter has retained his position as the spokesman for the cabinet as well.
Apart from his interventions he made during his 10-months tenure in education, his single USP that makes him distinct was his closeness to Mufti Sayeed. His loyalty and close family connection apart, he was unsure of his status till April 4, morning when the invitation reached him for oath-taking.
Dr Haseeb A Drabu
When Mufti Sayeed was battling for his life in AIIMS, people had started collecting details to make economist Dr Haseeb Drabu’s obituary impressive. Given the slander campaign that took off within days he started visiting Ram Madhav in Mumbai in January 2015 as his party’s negotiator, his detractors had buried him well before Mufti’s funeral prayers were offered in the cricket stadium.
It is perhaps the only case in Kashmir’s contemporary politics when everybody was seeking his head – the opposition, part of his party, vast sections of bureaucracy, and part of trade and media. The charade was targetted at his life, career, competence, associations and acquaintances. But he kept his cool and reacted with silence.
Though he was the last entrant to the party, his contributions are huge. Apart from literally running the finance ministry for five years as Economic adviser and being key game-changer on state’s developmental strategy and fiscal management, he is the person who gave PDP its bible, the Self Rule, and drafted the Agenda of Alliance with Mufti personally looking into it at iota-level. He was perhaps one of the closet persons to Mufti for nearly 18 months starting with the last Lok Sabha polls. All this gave him a clout that every other person wanted to reduce.
That had interesting outcomes. Drabu was perhaps the first finance minister of any state whose models in public finance and energy were copied by the federal level budget. But again he was the lone instance in which his reforms process in his own state was torpedoed from within.
After his guru’s demise, the campaign against him was so loud that he rarely set foot out of his official residence for nearly 40 days. Then, he was perhaps the only aide who would be available for the party leadership. Later, when the party decided to pick up the threads, Drabu was back to business. After a series of failures, the north pole-south pole alliance was resurrected. He is back to the seat that many wanted he should never have. But seemingly he is first among the equals.
Concerns remain, however. Even his well wishers in PDP say the problem-identifier and the solution-provider should put a bit of more efforts to get his own ideas translated into reality, slightly faster.
Zahoor Ahmad Mir
After he lost his father Abdul Aziz to a militant attack after he won the 2002 polls, Zahoor Mir has been in the assembly for three successive terms. He might have asked lot many questions but there is scant evidence suggesting that he ever spoke. With his support base outside urban Pampore, Mir was happy with the profile that he had evolved with.
Last week was a sweet surprise when he took oath of office as a junior minister. Soon after, he was seen in civil secretariat as the same calm and cool person walking with measured steps he is used to for last more than 15 years. After the portfolios were allocated, Mir is having more departments than half of Ms Mufti’s cabinet.
It is not known if Mir’s elevation was because of his seniority or the competence.
He might have been in politics for long but this is his first stint in the assembly. Chief Minister’s uncle is a junior minister with a number of departments and an independent charge for Haj and Auqaf.
Andrabi accompanied the Chief Minister to her first meeting with civil and police administration in Srinagar early last week.
(Note: The copy was slightly improved from the version that went to print.)