Politics has ceased to be a social service. It is a formal profession now. A generation is keen to upscale what it acquires. An engineer wants his son to be an engineer, so why should a politician be an exclusion, argues Shah Abbas
August 21, 1981 saw a massive gathering in Iqbal Park, Srinagar when late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah flew his son Farooq Abdullah in haste from New Delhi to crown him as his successor. A similar gathering in June, 2002 in Sher-e-Kashmir stadium Srinagar witnessed Farooq handing over the keys to his son Omar. In between the two dates the politics in Kashmir had undergone a rudimentary shift giving the rise of political families in the new social stratification.
Sheikh’s daughter, Khalida Shah is also in the politics since her husband late Ghulam Mohammad Shah who managed the chief ministership for some time after toppling Farooq’s government in mid eighties. NC believes that it was PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who made Farooq and his sister Khalida fight each other that time. Khalida is now trying to safeguard the political future of her son Muzaffar Shah in the name of Awami National Conference.
Knowing that politics provides a safe career, the political history of Jammu and Kashmir revolves round a few families enjoying luxury, power, influence and what not!
“It just takes one member of the family in politics to secure future of generations to come,” feels a Srinagar based journalist.
Another political family that has emerged second only to Abdullah’s in the regional politics is of Mufti’s.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed started his career as a congressman until 1987 when he quit the party and joined VP Singh led Jan Morcha. He became the first Muslim Home Minister of India in 1989.
But by 1999, to carry forward his political legacy Mufti Sayeed did two things: launched Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and introduced his daughter Mehbooba Mufit into politics. Mehbooba played a crucial role in introducing PDP to the masses.
Interestingly, to enjoy the fruits of power, political families cross-over from one party to another without bothering about the ideologies. There are instances where a single family has representation across the political spectrum irrespective of ideology or loyalty.
Take for instance the family of erstwhile ‘Yuvraj’ of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Karan Singh, a congressman and member Rajya Sabha, whose two son’s represent two major political parties in the state. While the elder son Vikramaditya Singh recently joined PDP, the youngest one Ajatshatru Singh is affiliated to NC.
Karan Singh is well versed with the Kashmir politics and has played a key role in “dumping legitimate” governments in the state from time to time, especially the one in 1953 that changed the entire political scope in Kashmir.
In Kashmir politics, some known politicians are in the field only because of their clan. Lones of Handwara are one among them. In their case, People’s Conference (PC) is divided between the two sons of late Abdul Gani Lone who was assassinated on May 21, 2002. The party is divided between two brothers, Sajad and Bilal Lone. Both claim to take forward their father’s legacy. While Sajad Lone switched camps and joined mainstream politics after his brief stint as separatist, his brother Bilal Lone is still part of the Hurriyat (M). Interestingly, their sister Shabnum Lone is also seeking share in her father’s political legacy.
Many candidates seeking votes in the upcoming elections are the heirs of former politicians who have either died or retired. Hina Bhat, daughter of former NC leader M Shafi Bhat is contesting from Amira Kadal on a BJP ticket; Anayat Ahmad Rather (Congress) is son of a late congress leader contesting from Homeshalibugh and Aijaz Ahmad Mir (PDP) son of late NC leader Abdul Jabbar contesting from Wacchi constituencies are the latest examples. Interestingly, in 2008 Mir’s sister contested unsuccessfully on a NC’s ticket from the same constituency.
NC leader and only woman minister in Omar’s cabinet, Sakina Itoo came into politics after the assassination of her father, late Wali Mohammad Itoo. She was nominated party’s candidate when she was studying in Class 12.
Sheikh Rafi, NC’s candidate for Shopian assembly segment, is the son of former NC leader late Sheikh Mansoor, who was assassinated in early nineties.
Similarly, Dr Mehboob Baigh is also enjoying the fruits from the seeds sown by his late father, Mirza Mohammad Afzal Baigh, an erstwhile right hand of Sheikh.
Agha family of Budgam has its own strange and peculiar history of being in almost every political party to accomplish their “safe career”. Agha Hassan, is a separatist while his son-in-law and nephew Agha Ruhullah, is a NC leader who enjoyed ministerial berth till last year. It is said that when Ruhullah’s father, late Agha Mahdi, then Congress leader, was assassinated he was called by NC from Aligarh where he was busy in his studies. The political affiliation of the Agha family is becoming interestingly strange before every election. Agha Mehmood, uncle of Hurriyat (M) leader Agha Hassan recently joined NC.
Mehmood, was earlier affiliated with PDP, and enjoyed a ministerial berth as well. Brother of Hassan, Agha Mohsin contested the last Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate from Srinagar. Another brother of Hassan, Agha Abdul Hussain, also contested the same election as an independent candidate.
Aghas of Budgam have been historically divided within on political ideologies.
After the death of PDP leader Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, his son Imran Ansari took over as his successor, while his brother Abid Ansari is a PDP candidate contesting election from Zadibal assembly segment.
Late Moulvi’s cousin Moulvi Abbas Ansari is a separatist and a senior member in Mirwaiz led faction of Hurriyat Conference.
Keeping in view the “safe career” in politics, Congress state president Saif-ul-din Soz too has managed a mandate for his son Salman Soz making his “career safer” and “brighter”. Similarly, Ali Mohammad Sagar has already reserved a place in NC for his son, Salman Sagar and sources said that another NC frontline leader Abdul Rahim Rather is trying everything to introduce his son as his successor. “These are the blessed ones as they have taken birth in political families so they need not to worry about their career,” a student of political science in Kashmir University said adding “Everybody knows that Tariq Hamid Karra of PDP, Nasir Aslam Wani of NC and Sajad Ahmad Kichloo of NC are enjoying power only because their ancestors were part of political affairs of their times.”
Mirwaiz family too has its own political history. After Sheikh Abdullah exiled late Mirwaiz Mohammad Yousuf Shah for political reasons, late Molvi Mohammad Farooq became the Mirwaiz and played a very active role in politics. Molvi Farooq later developed political affiliations with NC and Janta Party though for a brief period of time and after his assassination, his son Mirwaiz Umar Farooq took the reins of his father’s Awami Action Committee (AAC) and became the Mirwaiz of Kashmir. Umar now is considered a moderate face of the separatists who heads his own faction of Hurriyat Conference.
Rana brothers of Jammu may have some meeting point in the family matters but as far as politics is considered NC’s Jammu provincial president Davinder Singh Rana and his brother and MoS in PM Modi’s office Jatendra Singh Rana have no such points in politics.
Family politics in Kashmir is an old practice where a new trend of retired administrative officers joining the much “safer career” has recently started. This has increased the opportunities of selective families in a career sensitive society to perform a second inning. Many believe that both clan politics and “second inning” mentality can lead Kashmir society to a conflict which can cost heavier.
In fact election time always offers such “political heirs” of former politicians an opportunity to rise.