Things fall Apart!

The losers in the recent LS polls still claim of undergoing introspection but some leaders spill the beans against their party leaders in the process exhibiting their frustration. But do politicians introspect only when their own interests are hurt. Shah Abbas analyses

Mehboob Baig in a function to commemorate his fathers anniversary.
Mehboob Baig in a function to commemorate his fathers anniversary.

It seems that Dr Mehboob Baig of National Conference is yet to digest his defeat in the recently concluded LS polls from Islamabad seat by the hands of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.

Not only Dr Baig, but the entire ruling National Conference (NC) is succumbing under the burden of LS poll defeat and most of its leaders are so heartbroken that they neither take any interest in the party affairs nor follow the party whip resulting in the chaos within the oldest political party of the state.

If the party insiders are believed, NC is facing enormous troubles as some of its frontline leaders are openly targeting the chief minister, Omar Abdullah for his policies.

The snag within NC became public a few days back when its South Kashmir face, Dr Mehboob Baig raised hue and cry against his seniors on the eve of his father’s death anniversary. Son of Mirza Mohammad Afzal Baig, the onetime right hand of NC founder late Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah, had strictly directed his supporters that NC flags should not be part of the function.

Raising the banner of revolt against NC Dr Baig warned, “If the party leadership did not change its ways of working the party will suffer humiliating defeat in the coming assembly elections.”

Sources in the party informed Kashmir Life that former NC provincial president Dr Baig was expecting a post in the party when its Core Group recently met to think over the restructuring of the party. The meeting concluded on the decision of changing the General Secretary only, which according to sources disappointed Baig.

They added that it is not only Dr Baig, but another former provincial president Ali Mohammad Dar as well who is not happy with the present party dispensation.

Baig did not stop here but accused Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather of resorting to “brazen nepotism” in making appointments in Jammu and Kashmir Bank.  Rather hasn’t yet reacted to the allegations; however the newly elected party General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said that Baig’s statement can damage the party. “Beg is a responsible leader and is not expected to speak against any party member like this. His comments will weaken the party,” Sagar told local English daily.

The party activists at the district levels also take such type of allegations very seriously. “This is something very serious because the allegations of fraud on a very senior party leader and cabinet minister have come from his own party and needs no other witness,” a district president of the party in South Kashmir told Kashmir Life.

Dr Baig even attacked the top party leadership and their policies. But the NC functionaries like its Kashmir provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani, does not take Baig’s remarks as ant-National Conference. “What Dr Baig said was not against the party at all,” Nasir told Kashmir Life.

Dr Baig is of the opinion that Kashmiri people have rejected National Conference. The political commentators believe that he has decided to part ways with a party which “is not ready to consider the legacy of late Afzal Baig” and “accommodate” his son.

“People have given a clear message to us through the ballot. The fact that our party President and Union Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah lost with a huge margin, clearly indicates that people have rejected us,” Dr Baig said.

This is not the first time that Dr Baig has gone against NC. He was one among the 16 MLA’s who deserted the NC in 1984 to help Late G M Shah to form a government with the support of Congress. He was given the health ministry by GM Shah and according to sources the first thing Baig did was, he transferred his brother.

Though the party president Dr Farooq Abdullah is trying to play different cards now to vow the Kashmiri voters but the party insiders say that there are strong voices against Omar Abdullah within the party. Very recently after the LS poll debacle, the party witnessed open anti-Omar sloganeering from its workers at Nawa-e-Subha, who were demanding Farooq to take control of the party.

Abdul Rahim Rather
Abdul Rahim Rather

“Farooq has started borrowing slogans from separatist Syed Ali Geelani now, he is talking about the demographic changes in the state but such moves are not counted by people especially by a party which is about to leave the throne,” Showkat Parray, a political scientist said.

Dr Farooq has even alleged his own party that he was misled about the ground situation of Kashmir while he was in Delhi. “They (party leaders) did not tell me anything about the ground realities that led to our defeat. I am not going to leave them and will shunt them out from NC,” the party president who was a minister in the previous central government said during a recent party meeting.

If the party insiders are believed there is a lot of resentment against Omar in NC, who is backing a few leaders. “But his father, Farooq is trying his best to keep the people in good humor,” they said adding “however, so far he is not succeeding in his endeavors.”

The analysts believe that parties Jammu provincial president Davinder Singh Raina’s predictions about PDP have started to come true but in a different sense. Raina had predicted “split in the PDP after LS polls” but the facts indicate that Sher-e-Kashmir’s party itself is suffering badly both on external and internal front.

There are analysts who think that NC leaders are in fact still trying to find out the reasons of their recent debacle. They are also of the opinion that the statements of politicians like Dr Baig after election defeat merely indicate their frustration rather their serious introspection.

“If the NC leaders like Dr Baig are seriously interested in putting their house in order after the LA poll debacle it will be interested to see what steps they take. So far it seems that these leaders are merely giving vent to their frustration which can be understood,” Raashid Maqbool, a Srinagar based Journalist told Kashmir Life.

Congress is another party which faced worst kind of debacle by the hands of BJP in Jammu and PDP in Kashmir. Its leaders also issue statements clearly exhibiting frustration. The party’s state branch is however eying on the former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad the only poll plank as he has a reputation of being comparatively successful on the developmental front from 2005 to 2008.

At a time when a particular group of the party was trying to make grounds for Azad’s comeback, Makhan Lal Fotedar, the party’s stalwart and Congress Working Committee member dropped a bombshell putting question mark on Azad’s ability to lead.

“Azad, who lost recent Lok Sabha election can’t claim over Chief Minister’s post in J&K,” Fotedar said.

Azad lost the LS polls by the hands of his BJP rival Jitandra Singh Rana on the debut electoral contest on his home turf.

Many congress leaders who are considered to be the loyalists of Azad like Abdul Gani Vakil took a strong dig at Fotedar’s assertion. He stated that Fotedar, depicted his complete disconnect with J&K. “Fotedar is not only ignorant of the present ground situation and political realities but he has also forgotten the history of Kashmir as well. The reason for that is he has been out of the State for more than 40 years and he arrives here only on auspicious day of Kheerbhawani Mela,” Vakil said adding “It is not difficult for a person to speak to media in an air-conditioned room on political or other issues without tangibly being associated with people even at Municipal or Panchayat level.”

But, Azad according to sources is all set to lead the party in J&K during the upcoming assembly elections. He has started issuing statements about the future political alliances of his party clearly exhibiting that he is eying the Chief Ministerial seat again.

“Congress has made up its mind not to go for any pre poll alliance for the assembly elections with NC,” Azad recently said in a statement. He instead clearly hinted to share the power with PDP after the polls which bagged all the three LS seats of Kashmir by defeating even the NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah for the first time in his political career. Azad in fact has started to praise PDP who got lead in most of the assembly segments during LS polls. “Our coalition with PDP worked nicely in the past,” Azad said.

The two-time Union Minister and political adviser to late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Fotedar did not even spare National Conference led coalition. He said the National Conference-Congress coalition has failed to deliver in J&K. “We saw what happened in parliament elections. It happened because there is no Government visible on the ground,” he said.

Fotedar who hails from the South Kashmir said that after the coalition era started in J&K there was a tradition of rotational Chief Minister. “Mufti sahab ruled for three years and there was lot of development during his time. Had he continued many more issues would have got resolved,” Fotedar said.

Not only politicians like Fotedar but former bureaucrats desiring their second innings of power have also started praising PDP thinking the party is going to do well in the state elections as well and likely to reach the throne. B A Ronyal, who recently retired from the rank of Commissioner/Secretary, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, joined PDP. Ronyal was considered to be among the bureaucrats inclined to NC.

Many believe that the statements like that of Dr Baig and Fotedar are sad because these politicians start introspection only when they are out of power. Such statements highlight the fact that there is no serious self assessment mechanism in place through which the parties would keep a constant check on their policies and make an honest assessment of the implications of their policy while they are in office.

“The beans are spilled only when their own interests are hurt. NC and Congress leaders should have reflected on their policies and inner rot when they were hitting the interests of the people,” Raashid said.

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