When Mufti Mohammad Syed left for heavenly abode, after he had realized his cherished dream of sitting in the seat of Chief Minister, many in J&K, and elsewhere, wished his soul to Rest-in-Peace. But the events that happened soon after his death, while his daughter and political successor Mehbooba Mufti was in the chair, and what is happening now to the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) must have disturbed his peace in the grave. The political outfit he and his daughter built by borrowing 'bricks' from other political parties in the state – is crumbling brick by brick .
The situation in J&K is fluid on all fronts; no one can say, with some authority, where we are heading to. Everything is in a mess. But the only trade that is flourishing at the time is that of the politics – horse trading. Politicians, big or small, are making merry because ground is fertile for them to go party shopping. The trend of politicians going party hopping, with no qualms, stands well established. Having tasted power and perks in a ruling organization that has gone out of the reckoning, these "public servants" can't think of being away from doing "service to the people". So they hunt for a one which, in their calculations, will assume power in near future and afford them a chance to "do the public service" , albeit with perks and privileges.
Today, PDP is perceived as a dead horse with remote chances to assume administrative power again. So, all exit routes are open and people,who not in the distant past enjoyed power and pelf courtesy this party, are moving out in droves. The destined parking place is the new political outfit assembled by one time Mufti protégée. Not without reason, those who flock to the party consider it favorite of the big brother helming in Delhi.
The defection syndrome is not new to the state. We had a glimpse of it in 1953. But then the party shoppers would have some remorse. Today, the venture has acquired respectability. The actors brazen it out on standard explanation –"to serve the people change over is must" and for them it is "freedom from suffocating atmosphere."
In our times the Party breaking business was initiated by late Mufti Sayed himself: first as a Congress-man. First in 1984 he engineered defection from National Conference and brought down Farooq Abdullah government. Then after forming PDP he poached upon workers of other parties to swell the party ranks.
Is it a sense of déjà vu or double whammy for the Muftis? For them, things seem to have come full circle. It is the same men with whom Mufti Syed started the turncoat business in 1984 . then in 2000 he repeated it and formed the core of his PDP, after he broke away from the Congress. In a sense, the party changing is integral to the parliamentary democracy. But these days a wily politician has made party jumping an art. It is a travesty that we have become hostages to the men who crisscross varied political landscape with impunity. The defection syndrome has become phenomenal, unprincipled and a threat the democracy. This trend can be very dangerous in J&K where uncertainty in every sphere of life rules supreme. In Kashmir we imperatively need competitive and principled local politics.
Much they may shout to bring change for better in J &K, we know how malleable is the metal they are made of. They get moulded in any direction, caring little for the moral scruples. These politicians don't have capacity to construct a unified and sustained narrative to stop, at least, the scourge of civilian killings in the state, fight for the statehood and reclaim the democratic space snatched from us, leaving big issues apart. We don't have a hint that these ' honorable men' have courage and the skill to redeem themselves to the people whom they claim to represent.
Many troubles brought on us have origin in Delhi's power corridors, irrespective of the political color. Delhi revelled in keeping J &K politically unsettled so as allow it a room for manoeuvring. And has been successful in the design, singly, for the reason that it found local collaborators ready to tow the line, so long as their 'palm was greased.'
In the world of politics no political party can be written off so easily. Who else than Miss Mufti knows it better. She as a fighter should retain sense of perseverance that her days will come back. But the lesson the party deserters have taught her must not be forgotten – care for the principle and not rely on the men. Principles endure, morals of men may not . It is true for all other political parties – new or old.
B L SARAF is former Principal District & Sessions Judge