The 27th July 1999, was a day that would change the political dimensions and equations in the State of Jammu and Kashmir forever. There was a meeting going on at 2 Circuit house, Emporium Lane, Residency Road. The meeting was chaired by Mufti MuhammedSayeed and was attended by his close confidants. The closest ones were MuzaffarHussainBaig and GhulamHassan Mir and many more. It was by noon that Mufti Sayeeddeclared the formation of J&K People`s Democratic Party (JKPDP).The PDP operates on the ideology of self-rule, as distinctly different from autonomy. It believes that self-rule as a political philosophy, as opposed to autonomy, ensures the empowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Why was JKPDP formed?
The emergence of PDP in state politics was a significant development and it completely changed the dynamics of the state politics. Prior to its formation, National Conference which was the first major political party of Kashmir, and losing ground in state due to its alliance with the BJP. The contradiction between the BJP and the National Conference on Article 370 had largely antagonized the support base of National Conference. The National Conference’s increasing unpopularity and gradual decline created a vacuum in the state politics which paved the way for PDP. The decision to create a separate party (PDP) by leaving the Pradesh State Congress largely reflects the political ambitions of Mufti Muhammad Syed.
There were two factors responsible for launching the new party. First, Mufti’s own political career had got choked in Congress after he became the Home Minister. Second, in Jammu and Kashmir there was a political space available which Mufti wanted to fill-up.
Mufti Sayeed’s new avatar in politics represented a pro-Kashmir shift. The PDP’s party objectives were more radical and aimed at addressing the core concern of the people. Some of the important principles of the party were:
- The party would act as a bridge and mobilize public opinion, both in the state and in the country, to persuade the central government to make reconciliation and peace in the state by engaging with all stakeholders
- To address and articulate the grievances of the people of the State through constitutional means
- To wage a struggle for the restoration of normalcy, democracy and Rule of Law in the State so that human rights of the people would be duly respected and protected
These principled appealed largely to the masses in the state and PDP emerged as a strong force in the subsequent elections. PDP’s tryst with power started in 2002 when it formed a coalition government with the Congress. The Common Minimum Program of the coalition government largely reflected the party principles. Its focus on Healing Touch was evident in the Common Minimum Programme.The agenda of Healing Touch was focused on addressing the alienation of people of J&K. Mufti Sayeed, in fact, somewhat succeeded in making the program a success. He completely withdrew Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), disbanded the Special Operation Group (SOG) and also made efforts to institutionalize a dialogue process between New Delhi and the separatists. He even made efforts for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and most importantly, he advocated for a sustained dialogue process between India and Pakistan.
In the eleventh assembly elections, out of 87 total seats, PDP bagged 28 seats, whereas an unprecedented 25 seats went in BJP’s tally in the November-December 2014 elections. After several rounds of negotiation, an alliance between PDP and BJP was formed. Although BJP and PDP had struck a deal, there were concerns over whether the two parties would be able to function together given their vast ideological differences on critical issues like Article 370.
Mehbooba Mufti was the front runner in terms of getting the party cadre in line. Since the formation of the party she worked extensively at the ground level. She extensively travelled to various parts of the state to engage the masses and erected robust booth level model for the party. It was she who was responsible for the party`s best show in 2002 and even in 2014.
He was mostly engaged in engaging with different stake holders and council of ministers and made sure that the promises were delivered in time. It was he who had kept the party leaders in sync with the party and was known to be a great orator and motivator.
After Mufti Sayeed’s death in 2016, the opportunistics in the party wanted to take his position, and a power struggle started under wraps. Although,Mehbooba was the lead runner for the top post inside the party but she faced tremendous resistance from inside.
Although she was not an advocate of continuing further with the alliance, but after an interval of nearly a month she had to continue with the same. There were two major reasons as to why she acceded to continuation of the collation.
- Due to the power struggle inside the party there were two groups some of them wanted to be in power and the other wanted to walk out of alliance. As she had taken over the party recently, any change in status quo of the party would attract huge irreparable damage. Although she was daughter of Mufti Sayeed but her involvement was limited to party strategy and mobilization of cardre. This gap was very evident after her father passed away. The leadership inside the party lost the sync and I believe it was her compulsion to continue with the alliance
- Second threat was that BJP was simultaneously in talks with various leaders of PDP and NC to get support of PDP quits. If that would had happened the party would have been divided into parts
Mehbooba Mufti became the Chief Minister of the state. Despite the Union government’s relentless approach emphasizing the unrelenting use of force, these coalitions had provided a reasonable stability in the state. The influential insiders of the party were continuously trying to prove Mehbooba an inexperienced and incapable leader.
Due to the internal feud in the party Mehbooba was reluctant to trust people, and in haste she appointed some of her close aides and relatives on top party posts. There were some who had never fought elections and others who had lost the elections despite the Mufti wave in the state. Eventually, these people had to act as a bridge between the cabinet, cadre, MLAs and other public bodies.
This decision portrays a contrast between Mufti Sayeed’s acumen to drive the party with that of the current. It is alleged that these people started to dictate terms to other MLAs of the party and the cabinet. It was very tough and nearly impossible for anyone to reach the CM directly. CM was literally cut off with the other party workers and MLAs by these people. This created dissatisfaction with the party and the cadre on the ground.
National Conference (NC) was quietly assessing the situation all this while and this was the best time to pull the strings, as a result many left the party and joined NC ranks.
There is a saying “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”The greed and hunger for power and position drove them away when Mehbooba wanted them to be beside her as the collation was falling apart. NC is a party with huge pool of human talent and leadership. It has multiple leaders in each constituency who can campaign and contest elections if provided an opportunity. History has proved in the past the outsiders are not rewarded, newer the less only time will tell what fate has kept for them.
I am a firm believer that Mehbooba will be able to realign the party again and fight back all odds. I would eagerly wait for the day.