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Can the BJP succeed in splitting PDP and forming a govt in J-K?

Gowhar Geelani | Updated on: 7 July 2018, 19:21 IST


The People's Democratic Party (PDP) is unraveling and Mehbooba Mufti's leadership of the party is in danger. Several MLAs have begun speaking against her leadership. The rebellion supposedly has the blessings of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After the break-up of the PDP and the BJP last month, the grapevine has it that either Sajad Lone, Altaf Bukhari, Muzaffar Beigh or Haseeb Drabu, could become Jammu & Kashmir’s next Chief Minister if the rebellion in the PDP is engineered beyond repair.

What is going to happen in J&K if two-thirds of the PDP MLAs desert their party and join the ‘mutiny of sorts’ kick started by a former PDP minister Imran Reza Ansari following the break-up of the alliance?

Imran Reza Ansari, MLA from north Kashmir’s Pattan constituency and a former minister in the now non-operational PDP-BJP coalition government, is widely seen as the ‘mastermind of rebellion’ within the PDP ranks.

Ansari’s sentiments have been echoed by three more Members of the J&K Legislative Assembly all of whom belong to the PDP camp.

“…Not just Abid Sahab (Zadibal MLA Abid Ansari) everybody is saying that many elements had intruded into our government (PDP-BJP coalition) which eventually led to its collapse. We had been repeatedly telling Mehbooba ji that she has black sheep in her party who will leave her embarrassed,” Ansari told media, adding that “the People’s Democratic Party has been transformed into a ‘Family Democratic Party’ and that is the reason people became distrustful.”

Ironically, Imran Ansari himself is a beneficiary of the dynastic political background as he belongs to The Ansaris. Late Iftikhar Ansari, Imran’s father, was a politician who switched sides from the Congress to the National Conference to the PDP.

“For some time now I have been telling Mehbooba ji that I am feeling choked in the party (PDP). (Hamara dum ghut raha hai iss party main). It is a party hijacked by a few individuals. And it is because of those individuals Mehbooba ji lost power,” Imran Ansari told media.

Another PDP MLA from Srinagar’s Zadibal assembly constituency Abid Ansari has spoken openly against his party.

Similarly, another MLA from north Kashmir’s Tangmarg assembly segment Abbas Wani has also lent his support to Imran Ansari-led revolt.

The latest one to join the PDP’s rebel group is Member of Parliament Muzaffar Beigh’s nephew Javed Beigh, who is MLA from Baramulla in north Kashmir.

“Those lawmakers who have shown resentment against the party leadership should not be blamed for their stand as they and several others were humiliated by the party leadership from time to time. I echo the same sentiment as shown by lawmakers like Imran Ansari,” he told the Srinagar-based English daily Greater Kashmir.

Imran, Abid, Abbas and Javed are the four PDP MLAs who have made public their displeasure against the PDP. Haseeb Drabu and Altaf Bukhari, two former PDP ministers and senior leaders, have not spoken publicly against the party but are believed to be discontented with the PDP’s top leadership.

But are four-five MLAs enough to cobble up a new coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir? Will the existing anti-defection law allow that to happen? And, above all, is there a larger political design on the part of the BJP to invest in the third front formation come the next Assembly elections?

Jammu and Kashmir’s former advocate general Jehangir Ganai is of the view that the anti-defection law in Jammu and Kashmir after its amendment during the previous Congress-PDP coalition government is “much tougher and stronger” than other states.

To instigate irreparable division in the PDP the BJP would at least need support of 18 or more PDP MLAs. Also, it is said that if the PDP legislative party leader disqualifies the defecting MLAs, the Speaker (who belongs to the BJP) won't be able to reverse it.

“There is nothing to be glad about over the manner in which some MLAs have spoken against the PDP. The party leadership will soon meet and take a view on this,” senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar told Catch.

It is no secret that the PDP is divided in multiple camps and that the fissures within the party are too deep.

It seems that the BJP aims to retain its 25 seats in Hindu-dominated Jammu region by polarising the restive region on regional and religious lines.

The magic number to form the government in the 87-member J&K Legislative Assembly is 44.

Suppose the BJP retains its 25 seats from Jammu and wins some more in Ladakh region it would still need about 15 more from the Kashmir Valley.

Can the BJP convince 15 or more MLAs from the PDP, NC and Congress to join the saffron march in the upcoming elections? Looks difficult, but politics is the art of impossible.


A history of upheaval


Since 1947 the Kashmir story has seen various political characters being replaced, but the script has, by and large, remained unchanged.

From the arrest and unceremonious removal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 9 August 1953 to the toppling of Dr. Farooq Abdullah-led government in 1984 and now to isolation of Mehbooba Mufti on 19 June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the coalition government, Jammu and Kashmir’s history is replete with New Delhi’s machinations.

The formation of PDP was a similar move by the Centre. The PDP was formed by late Mufti Mohammad Saeed a year before the National Conference passed its Autonomy Resolution in the J&K Legislative Assembly in June 2000.

The NC's Autonomy Resolution had “shocked” the BJP, which was in power at the Centre at that time. Ironically, the NC was part of the BJP-led government. It is said that the Centre fostered the PDP as a counterweight to the NC in Kashmir. Strangely, the PDP is now unraveling at the Centre's behest.

It remains to be seen if the BJP succeeds in splitting the party.


First published: 7 July 2018, 19:21 IST
Gowhar Geelani

Gowhar Geelani is a journalist, commentator and political analyst from Srinagar. He was formerly with Deutsche Welle, Germany.