By Khursheed Wani
Winters have been quite happening days for Kashmir’s ruling Muftis’ for the past several years. They got a fractured mandate three years ago and spent the entire winter in deciding whether to bite the bullet to align with the BJP.
Next year, on a fateful December day, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed embarked on an extensive tour of Srinagar city against the advice of doctors. Same evening, he was taken ill and was subsequently flown to Delhi for treatment. He slipped into coma and passed away after three weeks.
This led to another chilly crisis. Shattered by the demise of her father, Mehbooba Mufti refused to take over immediately. She began putting conditions on re-alignment and blamed the ill-treatment by BJP for the ‘untimely’ demise of her father. When the winter ended, she suddenly flew to Delhi, met Prime Minister Modi and announced to take over as Chief Minister, unconditionally.
Amid the swarm of leaders and ministers, Mehbooba felt quite lonely. When the hell broke on her government after the killing of Burhan Wani, she was deserted by most of her ‘loyalists’. Even the pen pushers who sang paeans in the glory of Muftis’ chose to observe discreet silence.
Next winter, on its founder’s first anniversary, PDP gathered a horde of party workers on a drizzling morning at Indoor stadium in Srinagar. This was the first such gathering after the events of 2016 and Chief Minister chose the occasion to induct her younger brother Tasaduq Hussain Mufti into the party. Though he was conspicuous from the day his father passed away, he took enough time to formally join the party.
This winter around, the PDP owners initiated another seminal process to give a bigger role to the son. He would be nominated to the legislative council on a seat vacated by Vikramadatya Singh, the grandson of last Maharaja Hari Singh. This would pave way for his induction in the council of ministers. Tasaduq has already resigned as Coordinator of CMs Grievance Cell.
By early January when the state legislature meets in Jammu for a prolonged budget session, after a long gap as the autumn session in Srinagar was skipped, in every likelihood Tasaduq would be seen at some prominent place in the treasury benches. Speculations are rife that in the backdrop of his keen interest in tourism and environment, he would be state’s new tourism minister. Apart from the emotional attachment to the portfolio, as his father held it in the state and union governments, the ministry has been used for ‘perception management’ for many years. Going by his public utterances he seems to be quite keen on perceptions.
Interestingly, Tasaduq’s off-winter political leap last year ended in a big disappointment for him. Fielded by his party to contest forLokSabha,a seat vacated by his sister after taking over Chief Minister, he was unable to campaign in the area that was once party’s pocket borough. The people exhibited unprecedented resentment against the unionistsin the backdrop of the brutal force used to quell the 2016 uprising.
However, the party was confident of sending Tasaduq to Delhi even if a thin minority of voters turned to the polling booths in the expansive constituency. But before polls could take place, the Srinagar parliamentary by-poll turned out to be a defining moment with a humiliating 7 percent turnout and lot of killings. The poll day management and violence gave the unforgettable images of Farooq Dar tied to the bonnet of an army vehicle and a stone-throwing teenager being shot in his head outside a polling booth.
Next day Tasaduq called a press conference, regretted the poll-day violence and appealed Election Commission of India to postpone the by-poll. There was no other way but to heed the plea. The by-poll was postponed and it seems unlikely that the constituency would be again represented for this term of the LokSabha. ThusTasaduq’s first plan to create a niche in the party’s ‘pocket borough’ ended.
His sister, however, remained keen to see him play an effective role in governance. He was given charge of heading the CM’s grievance cell. Reports suggest Tasaduq has worked a great deal to make the grievance cell effective. He hired young educated boys and girls on fellowships to understand the ground level problems and explore solutions. All these months, he has extensively interacted with the bureaucrats, party leaders and workers to understand the nuances of peculiar Kashmir politics.
Tasaduq is from the world of creativity with several cinematographic accomplishments under his belt. He has set out to bring about changes on the ground level but his party has lost a sizeable ground, both on perception and politics. NC, his biggest political rivals cannot blame him for paratrooper landing in the cabinet because the two share this strand too. But that won’t make his job easy. His party has lost many bankable arguments against rivals and it a tough challenge for the sister-brother duo to bounce back in the remaining period of their government. And it is even tougher to move ahead when some rivals are cultivated within the party to the level of holding cabinet berths.