Keep MLAs happy, not Salahuddins, Mehbooba ji

K B Jandial
Politics is a strange ball game; yesterday’s alliance partners holding hands together are today’s enemy holding bizarre ‘terror warning’. Both PDP and BJP were tied in ‘unnatural’ alliance for three long years till 19th June, 2018, when the BJP suddenly pulled the rug under the feet of ‘unexpecting’ Mehbooba Mufti despite a perception that Modi was driven mainly by her.
Obliquely, the ‘event’ has resemblance with a similar ‘coup’in 1977 when no other than Mehbooba’s father and astute politician, Mufti Mohd Sayeed had pulled the rug under the feet of Sheikh Abdullah who had returned to mainstream politics only two years ago. Muftis (then father and now daughter) and Delhi are the common actors in both dramas but with a difference. Then Governor L K Jha had dissolved the Assembly accepting Sheikh’s recommendation who later bounced back with huge mandate at his own strength in the subsequent election while today, the Assembly has been kept in animated suspension (Mehbooba didn’t seek its dissolution).
The breaking of the three years of “unnatural” alliance of North-Pole and South-Pole is causing political tremors. Both former alliance partners appear to be desperate, at least one of them more nervous. Mehbooba’s outburst at the ‘martyrs’ graveyard unraveled the stress and tension under which she is placed following loss of the Government and open revolt by her MLAs who want  to dethrone the ‘Supremo’  and put an end to ‘family rule’. The ramblings in the party were visible even earlier but it came into open with the fall of her Government.  A formidable group of party legislators led by the powerful Shia leader and Mehbooba’s former Minister, Imran Ansari is working out a strategy to   muster maximum support and possibly create realignment of political forces opposed to ‘family rule’ of Muftis and Abdullahs.
Mehbooba’s outburst only confirms her desperation, “If Delhi tries to dismiss the voting rights of people like 1987, if it tries to create divisions and interfere like that then I think just like a Salahuddin and a Yasin Malik were born in 1987…if it tries to break PDP like that then outcomes will be dangerous.”
Her comparison of revolt in PDP and possible split, be it at the bidding of BJP, and creation of new political alignment in the shape of  third front, to 1987 “rigged” elections in Kashmir is totally misplaced.  In that fateful election, Salahuddin (Yousuf Shah) who was the candidate in Amirakadal constituency with Yasin Malik his Polling Agent, it was believed then that he had actually won the seat but NC candidate Gh.  Mohi-ud-din Shah was declared elected. Does a similar situation exist today? If not, then why this comparison?
In saying “logon ke voton ka dakka” she was articulating that any new formation of MLAs after split would not have the mandate of the people or it would amount to manipulating the mandate. But then PDP-BJP alliance too didn’t have the mandate of the people as both PDP and BJP, in their respective constituencies had got votes against each other and their policies. The PDP had got votes to prevent “communal” forces to enter Kashmir while BJP sought votes to root out “family rule” which both PDP and NC represent, and abrogation of Article 370. In election campaign, no less than the PM had called PDP as Baap Beti ke party. How did she conveniently forgot that fall of her Govt. (PDP-BJP) was greeted with crackers in Kashmir. Why her Ministers and legislators were afraid of visiting their constituencies?
If ever it has any resemblance, it has with the dismissal of Dr. Farooq Goverment and installation of “Gul” Shah Government on July 2, 1984 with 12 NC MLAs.  Engineered and ‘funded’ by the Congress, all the defectors were inducted as Ministers in “Gul” Shah Govt. with outside support of Congress.  BJP is possibly copying 1984 model. The history is repeating itself as now Mehbooba fears the same fate as meted out to Dr. FarooqAbdullah by her “Daddy” (Mufti Mohd Sayeed) 34 years ago.
Whether the rebels would succeed in forming a new  Government with BJP or not but it is no secret that BJP is active right from the day it withdrew from the “unnatural” alliance to stitch another alliance with disgruntled MLAs of other parties. BJP, on its part, has deliberately created confusion on Government formation in J&K. While the former Dy. CM Kavinder Gupta has dropped sufficient hints of  BJP returning to power in the State, most probably after Amarnath yatra (concluding on 26th August,  the BJP’s point man on Kashmir, Ram Madhav scotched  at these “speculations”, saying that BJP wants the Governor Rule to continue. But at the same time, he had fueled speculation himself by putting on social media his unscheduled meeting with Sajjad Lone, a separatist turned mainstream politician,at Srinagar. Speculation of Lone becoming CM went wild. On the other hand, BJP motivated media reports suggest that the party is negotiating with potential rebel MLAs in Kashmir to accept Jammu Hindu CM with two Dy. CMs from the Valley. PDP rebel Imran Ansari, is openly toying with the idea of making alternate Govt. after creating a new political force which is not captive of family rule.   There is no doubt that BJP is up to something that is worrying not only Mehbooba but other parties as well  because such exigencies unleash opportunities for MLAs  that don’t come every time.
Why Mehbooba who maintained her cool at her 19th June presser following sudden snapping of ties by BJP, became so emotional that she warned ‘Delhi’ of terror consequences. Delhi bashing has been the common refrain of Kashmiri politicians when out of power but Muftis had been very cautious in choice of words while criticising Delhi. Obviously, she has lowered the guard. One reason for her desperation could be her failure to end internal dissension.
While issuing “terror threat” how could she forget birth of almost one militant on every alternate day during her rule? She can’t absolve herself from the failure of her Government to demotivate and mainstream Kashmiri youth which is one of the factors in continuing bloodshed. Birth of other Salahuddins or Yasin Maliks is immaterial today, as both are irrelevant in today’s Kashmir terrorism. Both of them are no longer the icon for Kashmiri youth and birth of either of them would be inconsequential. The entire separatist leadership is today discredited with the youth. Today, the real ‘icons’ in Kashmir are Burhan Wani, Sabzar Bhat, Zakir Musa and not Salahuddin and Yasin Malik who are protected and enjoying all comforts of life in respective habitat.
Omar Abdullah was truthful when he reacted to Mehbooba’s outburst which has unleashed a debate, “No new militant will be born if PDP breaks up. She seems to have forgotten that militancy in Kashmir has already been reborn under her most able administration”.
It is inconceivable that Mehbooba can’t differentiate between rigging the election and cobbling new alliances. If people’s acceptability of a coalition Government is the golden yardstick in democracy   then even her North-Pole South-Pole alliance was not acceptable to Kashmir in general and voters in particular besides some of her own MPs, MLAs but she chose to continue till she was softly ‘dismissed’ by her alliance partner.
Without supporting the disdainful horse trading per se, there is a counter argument. The elected MLAs have right to seek change in the leadership of the party and if rebels’ charges are to be believed, ignoring legislators and workers by her is precisely the factor responsible for the crisis. And if they succeed in formulating a new political alignment to give people a democratic Government within the ambit of the law, what is the problem. Unlike Sheikh, why she did not recommend dissolution of the Assembly and seek fresh mandate?
Unfortunately, in Indian political system, public representatives ‘mortgage’ their right to dissent and enslave themself to the party ‘Supremo’ and her/his coterie. The parties and the Government are run as fiefdom by the ‘Supremo’ and its henchmen.  But power keeps them all united and when the Govt falls, the disgruntled MLAs’ revolt. The rebels have accused Mehbooba of making herself inaccessible to MLAs and workers and instead cultivated her family members, five of them were calling the shots, brushing aside internal resentment.
A mature and bold leader like Mehbooba who is credited to have built this party in short time, is not expected to deflect the explosive situation of the party and attribute the revolt to Delhi. And how can a split in a party be linked to the birth of more Salahuddins (terror icon) and Yasin Maliks (separatist icon)? Her outburst can also be construed as a veiled appeal to already radicalised youth to follow the path of these “icons”.  During her own rule, hundreds of disillusioned youth, some well red and professionals had picked up gun in a misplaced notion of jihad and most of them attained so called martyrdom. At least, Salahuddin and Yasin Malik are lucky to remain alive and acquired “respectability” in their respective domain. Her comparison is grossly disdainful.
Yes, installation of Gul Shah Government with defectors was a blunder of the Centre that further created mistrust between Kashmir and Delhi. Things were not bad in Kashmir then and the dismissal of Farooq Abdullah was the turning point in the political history of Kashmir that prepared a fertile ground for Pakistan to launch a ‘successful’ proxy war. The public anger against G M Shah Government was so intense that the Govt could be run only on the strength of curfew. It was nick named as “Gul Curfew sarkar” and the CM as “Gul Curfew”. That was beginning of the present phase of the crisis in Kashmir, based on toppling of a popular Government unacceptable to Indira Gandhi. Rajiv-Farooq accord of 1986 though brought Farooq back to power but at a price that proved huge.The available space for mainstream opposition party was squeezed to the advantage to separatists (MUF). The subsequent poll in1987 was marked by rigging at some selected constituencies in Kashmir to facilitate victory of NC candidates where MUF candidates were reportedly winning. That was the last nail in the coffin and the people like Salahuddin were exploited by Pakistan for “armed struggle” (terrorism) to annex the remaining part of Kashmir. Mehbooba’s father, Mufti Sayeed, as PCC Chief, was a party to Rajiv-Farooq Accord and probably “condoned” subsequent developments to which her daughter today chose to recall.
With State’s stringent anti-defection law in place since 2005, defection  is not easy. The amended law incorporated a provision that only in the event of split (defection) by not less than 2/3 MLAs of a party the MLAs would not be disqualified. While the law grants final say in disqualifying a defecting member (s) to  leader of the legislative party, it can be defeated if the Speaker so decides as seen in disqualification of 7 BJP MLAs  during NC-Congress rule in 2011.What Speaker Akbar Lone did in 2011 can be repeated this time by Nirmal Singh? Whether it happens or not, there was no justification for Mehbooba to give terror threat to Delhi which will not benefit her today even though she carries the baggage of soft separatism with her party election symbol of Kalam Dawat which in 1987 was of MUF of which Salahuddin was the candidate. This linkage could be one reason for talking about birth of more Salahuddins.