Srinagar: Senior politician and former deputy chief minister of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Muzaffar Hussain Baig joined the Sajad Lone-led Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) here on Wedenesday.
Baig joined the party at his Srinagar residence in Kral Sangri after the JKPC chairman visited the former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and announced his return to the party fold terming it his “homecoming.”
Baig, according to the party statement after his joining, said that he had felt that apart from many problems plaguing J&K, one of the biggest problems was the quality of leadership. “Quite often he found that the leaders didn’t have the requisite exposure or the capacity to be able to contribute at a scale and at a level that he or she is supposed to do,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that Baig has a “great role in helping the people of J&K to navigate the turbulent and treacherous waters.”
Baig had started his political career from JKPC which was earlier led by Sajad’s father, Abdul Ghani Lone, a political stalwart assassinated by unidentified gunmen in 2002 during a rally in Srinagar to commemorate Mirwaiz Farooq’s death anniversary. Mirwaiz was assassinated by armed men in 1990.
Baig had been close to senior Lone, who along with Iftikhar Ansari, had founded JKPC in 1978. A lawyer by profession, Baig is believed to have played a key role in writing JKPC’s constitution. Party leader Bashir Ahmad Dar, a former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from North Kashmir’s Kupwara, said it was an “emotional moment” for the party as he saw Baig returning to JKPC, to which he says, Baig has given his “prime youth” after the party was formed.
“The party rallies those days reverberated with the slogan – three star, three star – Lone, Baig, Iftikhar. With Baig back in the party the legacy of three stars is also back,” former MLA Bashir Ahmad Dar told NewsClick. Earlier, Iftikhar’s son, Imran Reza Ansari, joined the party after quitting PDP in 2018.
Baig is believed to have been “groomed” by Abdul Ghani Lone during his early political career, however, he parted ways with the party and later went on to form PDP with former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayed. Baig, a former parliamentarian from Baramulla constituency, served as law minister and deputy chief minister of J&K when PDP formed the government for the first time in 2002.
The 74-year-old leader, who was awarded Padma Bhushan last year, finally parted ways with PDP in November 2020 after a fallout with the party leadership over seat-sharing in the recently held District Development Council (DDC) polls. Often referred to as Delhi’s “pointman” in the region, Baig was one of the few leaders who was not detained when the Centre abrogated Article 370 and 35 A and bifurcated J&K into two Union territories.
Baig’s joining comes at a time when the mainstream political landscape of the region is remodelling itself in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. The parties had formed an alliance they called the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) with the objective to fight for the restoration of the region’s ‘special status’. Lone was its general secretary, however, his party resigned from the alliance after alleging that other parties had fielded proxies against the alliance members, fighting on a seat sharing basis, in the DDC polls.
Pertinently, senior leader Imran Reza Ansari had resigned from the party’s general secretary post, days ahead of the Baig’s joining. His resignation, however, has not been accepted.
“There is no move for the office bearers to resign. We appreciate the spirit behind the move to resign but can’t possibly accept it," Lone told a local news agency.
The joining of Baig, many believe, is a key move that will cause a stir amongst regional parties and also help JKPC increase its base outside its sphere of influence hitherto limited to border areas of Kupwara in North Kashmir.