Grow­ing dis­sent and de­sert­ers may spell doom for the party ahead of elec­tions

India Today - - STATES - By Asit Jolly and Moazum Mo­ham­mad

Me­hbooba Mufti’s trou­bles were only be­gin­ning when the BJP pulled the rug from un­der her gov­ern­ment last June. The past seven months have seen un­prece­dented at­tri­tion in the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party’s ranks, with 13 se­nior lead­ers, in­clud­ing seven for­mer MLAs and min­is­ters, quit­ting the party. An­a­lysts say the PDP, founded by two-time chief min­is­ter Mufti Mo­ham­mad Say­eed in 1999, could well im­plode in the run up to the Lok Sabha and state assem­bly elec­tions, ex­pected to be held si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

The lat­est to quit on Jan­uary 5, for­mer Chadoora leg­is­la­tor Javid Mustafa Mir, hasn’t yet re­vealed his plans, though other PDP rebels have headed straight to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence or Sa­j­jad Lone’s Peo­ple’s Con­fer­ence. Among them are Basharat Bukhari and Peer Mo­ham­mad Hus­sain, two se­nior par­ty­men, who were per­son­ally wel­comed into the NC by Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah at his Srinagar res­i­dence on De­cem­ber 19.

Hus­sain, once a trusted aide of the late Mufti Say­eed, fell out with Me­hbooba after he was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously re­moved as chair­per­son of the Jammu & Kash­mir Waqf Board in 2017. Bukhari, too, was peeved about be­ing di­vested of im­por­tant port­fo­lios like law and par­lia­men­tary

af­fairs dur­ing Me­hbooba’s regime. Hus­sain claims he was “pun­ished” for warn­ing Me­hbooba of co­ter­ies.

On Jan­uary 7, ad­dress­ing an em­bar­rass­ingly thin gath­er­ing on the third death an­niver­sary of her fa­ther in Bi­jbe­hara in Anant­nag dis­trict, a dis­traught Me­hbooba ac­cused the rebels of treach­ery. “All those rais­ing is­sues in the party now, went to [the RSS head­quar­ters at] Nag­pur and of­fered to split the PDP… they com­pro­mised my po­si­tion,” she said. Me­hbooba was al­lud­ing to for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Altaf Bukhari, who al­legedly tried to en­gi­neer a split in the PDP fol­low­ing Mufti’s death in 2016. Though Bukhari re­mains in the PDP, his op­po­si­tion to party lead­ers Naeem Akhtar and Peerzada Man­soor, close con­fi­dants of Me­hbooba, is well known. He caused quite a sen­sa­tion when on De­cem­ber 10 he stormed out of a party


meet­ing con­vened to dis­cuss the grow­ing dis­si­dence. Bukhari is pre­par­ing to launch his own party, say sources, since Me­hbooba is un­likely to oust Akhtar or Man­soor—the only two friendly faces within the PDP be­sides brother Tas­saduq and other fam­ily mem­bers.

The at­tri­tion in the PDP’s ranks has ben­e­fit­ted the PC the most. In­flu­en­tial Shia politi­cians Im­ran An­sari and his un­cle Abid An­sari have teamed up with Lone and, along with for­mer Tang­marg leg­is­la­tor Abbas Wani, are ex­pected to help the PC win a lot more than its tally of two seats in the last assem­bly poll.

A se­nior politi­cian, who has worked with both Mufti Say­eed and Me­hbooba to build the PDP, de­scribes it as “a loose col­lec­tive of in­di­vid­u­als only there for the spoils of power”. Now that they are no longer in power, he says, “the party’s over for them”.

TROU­BLE MOUNTS FOR ME­HBOOBA? The for­mer CM ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence

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