Alone in the battlefield

Her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is not with her to guide in the nitty-gritty of politics.
Alone in the battlefield
File Photo

It is not the first time that Mehbooba is going to face elections. She has contested  herself and made others to  contest and win. But, it is for the first time that in her dual role as PDP president and  Chief Minister, she would be  facing severest test  in the complex and critical  electoral battlefield. There are huge expectations  that she would be able to  regain both the   seats of Srinagar and Anantnag going to polls on April 9 and 12  respectively.

Her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is not with her to guide in the nitty-gritty of politics. She has some unpleasant  political baggage. She knows many things, what is happening in the government  and the party, but she is unaware or pretends  not  knowing many more things.  There lies the major test. Unless someone is sure of the   political warriors  and their unbridled ambitions, despite very limited capacity to deliver, the challenges for her  become  taller and  formidable.

Her party leaders  having  read the political  thought for decades  have deciphered that the three things are plaguing the PDP at the moment. The most prominent among them is its alliance with the BJP, which the people don't like at all in Kashmir. They  are caught in a syndrome of being ruled by RSS via PDP, the party that they had voted  in the parliamentary and the Assembly elections with the hope that  it would preserve their  distinct identity and  dignity against the " right-wing Hindu forces."  The opposite happened. People are angry with PDP. In spite of that she was elected to Anantnag Assembly constituency which met the constitutional requirement  to be in the Assembly within six months of her  becoming the  Chief Minister. She was sworn-in  as Chief Minister on April 4 and by  June 25 she was in the Assembly as an elected member from her father's constituency. Thus far, there was no problem, excepting for a hiccup  of Handwara episode where a controversial incident led to rioting and protests. Five persons, including  a woman died in the retaliatory action.

Something happened on July 8- the killing of  Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen Commander  and a darling  on social media for  young boys and girls, the impact of which was beyond the  anticipatory powers of the Chief Minister and her team. Of course, the inflammatory material  was arrayed when the opposition and separatists raised issues of the  sainik colonies – residential enclaves  for state subject ex-soldiers and  transit camps for the Kashmiri Pandit migrants willing to return to the land of their forefathers.  The tourist season was booming and that was  the only activity that was generating money and  making the local economy to move, because all other sectors were still reeling under the adverse impact of the  devastating and image hurting  floods of 2014.

The " B" episode turned everything topsy turvy. Mehbooba  found herself in  a splendid isolation. Barring one minister who would issue statements at regular intervals, others were either in  Jammu or Delhi. They had stopped visiting the secretariat. This  gave a  slide to the decline of governance. The second main reason   for the  people having  lost their  original faith in the  party.

And the five month long unrest  has badly bruised the party, especially in South Kashmir. The party's bastion has been shaken. It has recovered some  breathing space. But this third problem of the unrest that  resulted in tragedies and  struck  hard on the bonds  of the party with the people. There is a wide gap yet to be fulfilled.

Against the backdrop of these  factors and the challenge  of winning the  elections  must make her rethink of the strategy  afresh. She should be clear on two fronts that BJP is not an asset but a liability. Here she should  know what Farooq Abdullah did in 1998. He aligned with NDA at the Centre, so much  so that in 1999, his son Omar Abdullah was inducted into the union ministry, but  he  maintained a dignified distance from the party, though the times were different. That time  Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, keen on  Kashmir solution  and a believer of handshake with Pakistan. This time, it is Modi, whose inconsistency is baffling.  Her compulsion is that she doesn't have the numbers that Farooq had, she has to depend on BJP to run the government. That is the  political trap she inherited  from her father. But the luxury of winning the elections with a liability in tow  is not with her. She will have to come on her own. There is no other choice. She has to be politically correct for her own people.

(Binoo Joshi is political journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir and  founding Editor of web portal J K  News Today)

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