Amidst the rebellion brewing inside the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a core group meeting was held at former Chief Minister and party president Mehbooba Mufti’s residence on Tuesday evening. This was the first core meeting attended by Mufti after her party lost power in the state, as the BJP pulled out of a coalition government with the PDP.
The group meeting was chaired by Mufti and all the core group members including Altaf Bhukhari, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Dilawar Mir, Nizammudin Bhat, Ghulam Nabi Lone (Hanjura) and Mehboob Beg were present. Surprisingly, senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and Sartaj Madni were not invited for the meeting, raising speculations that they might be sidelined from the party affairs soon. There are speculations that Mufti is working on structural changes in the party and some new faces might be inducted soon.
Newsclick contacted Naeem Akhtar for his comment on this new development, but he refused to comment.
The political uncertainty in the state of Jammu and Kashmir looms large. “On the surface, it appears that the 21 MLAs are backing Mufti, but the situation can turn upside down, if offers are made by the BJP,” a PDP leader said on the condition of anonymity.
“There are chances that the 21 MLAs can ally with BJP if promised being in power for remaining two-and-a half years of the current assembly. It all depends on the Centre. If it wants to from a new government, it will get it done,” said the leader.
PDP has 28 members in the 87-member Assembly, followed by BJP (25), National Conference (15), Congress (12), Peoples Conference (2) and Independents. For BJP to be in power, the party needs the support of 18 out of 28 members who desert PDP, which seems perhaps unrealistic.
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“Even with two People’s Conference legislators, and one Independent, BJP will need the support of 16 more legislators to reach the magic number of 44 in the house of 87 members. It seems quite not possible,” said a PDP leader, on the condition of anonymity.
As per the political analysts, two thirds of PDP MLAs will have to walk out to evade disqualification under anti-defection law. If the number is less, the “rebel” leaders would become eligible for disqualification.
According to political experts, hoisting of the defectors’ government in J&K will cause even more damage to the already torn state.
Linking the BJP’s pull-out to the incident of August 9, 1953, PDP MLC Khurshid Alam said “History has repeated itself... A similar incident happened on August 9, 1953 when people’s government was collapsed by New Delhi. Mehbooba is facing the same situation because she worked for the people, and she will come out of it. We all will come out of it together,” said Alam.
Talking about the dissent in the party Alam told Newsclick, “Dynasty politics is an excuse used by rebel leaders to revolt against Mehbooba. But we are with the party, with the agenda of the party. The ones who are accusing Mehbooba of dynasty politics must know that all of the people inducted are political personalities. They have been leaders, it’s not that some layman has been brought in.”
The rebel party members have said that they have been demanding the end of “two-family” rule in Jammu and Kashmir, maintaining that they have raised their voice against the dynasty rule.
“Most of the MLAs and senior leaders are against the dynasty rule. But she inducted people from her family like Sartaj Madani, her uncle, as vice-president when there were senior people like Muzaffar Hussain Beg, Abdul Rahim Veeri, Tariq Hamid Karra, Qazi Afzal and Nizam-ud-Din Bhat waiting in the line. This is why Karra left. She is now saying she feels alone, which is why she brought her family members into the party as well as the government,” one of the rebel leaders Yasir Reshi had said in his interview to Firstpost. Meanwhile, 21 MLAs of PDP have come out in support of the party president, which is being seen as a setback to the disgruntled party members who revolted against Mufti.
After the break-up of the coalition between BJP and PDP, and emergence of four rebels party members, a third party led by BJP ally Sajad Lone is gaining currency. Lone’s love for the BJP is not a secret. He is reported to once have called Prime Minister Narendra Modi his “elder brother”. While praising the PM, Lone had said, “Modi was so large hearted that it was tough to say whether I was meeting the PM of India or my elder brother.”
If sources are to be believed, the name of Union Minister Jitendra Sharma, who is a senior BJP leader from the Jammu region, has been proposed by the party for the candidature of chief minister. Commentators believe that this is the right opportunity for the BJP to get their own CM in the state.
According to political analysts, the BJP has been banking on Lone to revive the ‘friendship’ of his late father Abdul Gani Lone with political bigwigs like Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Sources close to Baig say that he feels “sidelined” in the party after he moved to New Delhi following his victory in 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla constituency. It is also relevant that when the coalition had sworn in, in 2015, the PDP had opposed the induction of Sajad into the cabinet.
In an interview to India TV on Saturday, Mufti had said, “If Delhi breaks our party and tries to makes Sajad Lone or whosoever chief minister, it will erode the trust of Kashmiris.”
However, BJP has denied that they are in talks with Lone or anyone to form the government. They have maintained that they are in the favour of governor’s rule.