Mehbooba’s party hit by desertions
Mehbooba Mufti first lost her chief minister’s chair, now she is struggling to keep her flock together.
Senior leaders are deserting her People’s Democratic Party in quick succession, considerably weakening it after the 2014 Assembly election high when the PDP literally pushed the mighty National Conference to the margins in Jammu and Kashmir.
Dealing the PDP one of its biggest blows, former ministers and party veterans Basharat Bukhari and Peer Mohammad Hussain switched to the NC earlier this week.
The PDP is paying the price for aligning with the BJP after the 2014 polls although it had projected itself as the only party that could prevent the BJP from coming to power in Jammu and Kashmir. The iron-fist policy adopted by her government to crush pro-azadi protests also robbed the PDP of popular support.
There is anger in the party over Mehbooba running the government through a coterie, who were mostly her relatives, and the fact that the PDP rank and file had little access to her.
Bukhari, a three-time MLA from Sangrama, served as law and parliamentary affairs minister in the previous PDP-BJP government. He is the elder brother of journalist Shujaat Bukhari, who was killed by militants in June.
Hussian had been a minister in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government and had vacated his Shangus Assembly seat in 2008 for his son-in-law Peerzada Mansoor.
Others who have left the PDP in the past one month include Haseeb Drabu, who had been finance minister in the Mehbooba cabinet; Imran Ansari, who served as information technology minister; former MLAs Abid Ansari and Mohammad Abbas; MLC Yasir Reshi; and Raja Aijaz Ali, a party candidate in the 2014 polls.
The PDP has divested Mehboob Iqbal of the post of general secretary for “anti party activities” and he too is expected to quit the party.
Bukhari on Wednesday expressed anguish at Mehbooba’s style of functioning.
“Mehboobaji has grown a lot and it’s not possible for me to reach that level. And why should I disturb her again and again?” Bukhari told reporters after joining the NC. “I don’t want to be disrespectful of her.”
Mehbooba lost power in June when the BJP withdrew support to her government.
Over months, the BJP is believed to have tried hard to engineer a split in her party and form a government in alliance with PDP rebels, but the efforts did not bear fruit as Mehbooba largely managed to keep her flock intact.
The threat of rebellion, however, never subsided and prompted her to beseech before the NC and the Congress and form a grand alliance for government formation. But before that could happen, governor Satya Pal Malik abruptly dissolved the Assembly last month.