One House, Many Flags

Seeking political presence in all formations has led single families fan out across ideologies and parties. Syed Asma reports the political cocktails that make Kashmir’s politics an interesting melange

People queue to cast their ballot in 2014 assembly polls. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
People queue to cast their ballot in 2014 assembly polls.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Bearing the expense of perhaps the most expensive campaigning in Jammu and Kashmir, Narendra Modi has come five times to Jammu and Kashmir to lure people to vote for the saffron lotus. And each time he addressed a rally he marketed the developed states lately ruled by BJP and lashed out on the hereditary politics; Abdullahs and Muftis being his main targets. Hereditary politics is an old story in today’s poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir but there exists a parallel story as well – the story of battlefields within the political families of the state.

The family battle in the mainstream politics perhaps started with the senior Sheikh siblings – Begum Khalida Shah and Farooq Abdullah. Farooq born with silver spoon in mouth inherited National Conference (NC) from his father and Begum Shah took over Awami National Conference (ANC) after her husband, G M Shah, died in January, 2009.

ANC emerged after Shah toppled Farooq’s government in 1984.  Shah was then the chief minister of the state from July, 1984 to March, 1986.

Politics left the two families in estranged relationship and Khalida contested against Farooq in the recent Lok Sabha elections from central Kashmir.

Ajatshatru-Singh--Vikramaditya-Singh-Karan-SinghApart from the first family of Jammu and Kashmir, the lone royal family is also caught in an interesting tiff.

Himself a Congressman Karan Singh’s two sons joined People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). Come what may, either of his sons would remain close to the government as it is PDP or BJP which are likely to secure majority of the seats.

The elder son, Vikramaditya Singh, running hotel business in Himachal Pradesh, joined PDP in August, 2014 and is contesting from Jammu. Having significant influence among Rajputs, Singh plays an important role for the party in the winter capital.

Karan Singh’s younger son Ajatshatru Singh, a minister in Farooq’s regime in 1996 joined the saffron party in November, 2014.

Dr-Farooq-and-Khalida-Shah

Termed as a ‘deadwood’ by Omar Abdullah, Ajatshatru resigned from NC perhaps because he was denied mandate from Nagrota. Ajatshatru representing NC was contesting from the same constituency since many years but the last two results have been a bit disappointing. In 2002, he lost to BJP’s Jugal Kishore by a narrow margin of 67 votes and in 2008 he lost by 1620 votes. However, he was later nominated to the state legislative council by the party.

After NC denying him the mandate Ajatshatru jumped into BJP’s lap to retain his position in the constituency.

Pertinently, NC gave the Nagrota ticket to its Jammu provincial head – Devinder Singh Rana.

Ranas are also the part of this parallel story of family battlefields. One is a major figure in Chief Minister’s Office and another has become a VIP in Prime Minister’s Office!

Sajad-Lone-Bilal-Lone

Dr Jitendra Singh Rana, a medical doctor and a BJP man, successfully contested from Udhampur, Jammu during Lok Sabah elections. Dr Singh came in news at the peak of Amarnath land row in 2008, when he became the spokesperson of the Jammu’s right wing group Shri Amarnathji Sangarsh Samiti (SASS). Dr Singh became an MP from Doda-Udhampur after defeating the Congress heavyweight Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The younger brother, Devinder Singh Rana, a close friend of Omar Abdullah is representing NC from Nagrota, Jammu. An automobile engineer, Devinder is basically a businessman who later joined politics (NC).

Sons of an engineer from Chenab Valley, Ranas are playing key roles in state politics today.

 

Rajnish-Sharma-Mangat-Ram-Shah

Other pair includes former Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma and his younger brother Rajnish Sharma.Mangat Ram, an erstwhile Congress man shifted his loyalties and joined PDP in October, 2014 while as his brother Rajnish has been fielded by Congress from Bani, Jammu. Pertinently, Mangat Ram’s son Subash Sharma also joined PDP and is contesting from Kathua Assembly.

The family political battle is not new to Kashmir. Ideological clashes have been there since years, perhaps more serious than these. These at least abide by a constitution of single country; the other’s preferred a land across the border.

One among them is Mattoo family. The four brothers, Mohammed Yasin Mattoo, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Mattoo, Ghulam Rasool Mattoo and Dr Ali Mohammed Mattoo are poles apart, ideologically.

Ghulam Mohi-ud-din was an NC loyalist, moreover a Sheikh’s man, while as Mohammed Yasin Mattoo represented Kashmir Political Conference (KPC).

Jitendra-Rana-Devendra-RanaKPC during 1950s and 1960s was a major pro-Pakistan and pro-plebiscite party in the Valley.

The other brother, Ghulam Rasool Mattoo, the former head of Chamber of Commerce was a staunch anti-Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. He showed his resentment when he openly resisted Sheikh’s release from the jails in 1960’s. Dr Ali Mohammed Mattoo, though an apolitical character in the family married Sheikh’s younger daughter Suraiya.

In that era Political Conference and National Conference gave rise to many family disputes in politics. Shahdads, a business family too had same story. Their three sons: Ghulam Ahmed Shahdad, Abdul Gani Shahdad and Mohammed Shafi Shahdad represented Political Conference, ANC and NC respectively.

Zareef Ahmed Zareef, a historian, talking about the era says partition of India and making of Pakistan came up with interesting anecdotes in Kashmir.

Other family divided on the lines of this ideology is of Ghulam Nabi Siraj. He was an NC loyalist but his son, Ghulam Rasool Siraj, demanded accession with Pakistan and supported People Conference.

In the contemporary times, Abdul Gani Lone’s is an apt example of this sort.

His older son, Bilal Gani Lone, is part of the moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq’s Hurriyat faction while as his younger son, Sajad Lone, is trying his luck in his maiden election this year from Handwara seat.

Sharing a similar chemistry is the Agha family. Agha Ruhulla representing NC and Agha Syed Hassan chose Mirwaiz’s Hurriyat faction.

Zareef quite candidly terms the trend: ‘one house with many flags.’

 

 

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