Home » Politics » Drabu sacked: It's advantage Mehbooba, but there's no threat to PDP-BJP alliance

Drabu sacked: It's advantage Mehbooba, but there's no threat to PDP-BJP alliance

Riyaz Wani | Updated on: 13 March 2018, 20:44 IST
(Arya Sharma)


In 2014, days after the PDP emerged the largest single party in the state Assembly polls with 28 seats, its erstwhile patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed deputed Haseeb Drabu to work out the contours of a possible alliance with the BJP. Thereafter, Drabu worked with BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav to formulate the Agenda of Alliance that became the basis of a coalition between the two ideologically divergent parties, the so-called “North and South Pole" of Jammu and Kashmir politics.

Drabu, a noted economist and a former editor of Business Standard, was predictably made the finance minister. He retained the all-important post even after the sudden death of Mufti and the takeover of his daughter Mehbooba Mufti as the new J&K CM. But on Monday, Mehbooba sacked him as finance minister for calling Kashmir a “social” rather than a “political” issue during his speech at a function organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi.

The move took the state by surprise. Drabu had substantially gained in political stature over the past four years as a leading member of the PDP-BJP coalition. Along with CM Mehbooba, he was the PDP's only nationally known figure. What is more, he has also been the architect of self-rule, the party's own formula for the settlement of Kashmir in its external and internal dimensions. The formula involves the radical constitutional restructuring of J&K relationship with New Delhi, dual currency, roll-back of central laws, an elected governor, even the renaming of the titles of governor and chief minister as Sadar-i-Riyasat (president) and the prime minister respectively.

Now the same Drabu is in the dock for denying Kashmir issue its political dimension and defining the lingering turmoil in the state as a social issue.

For the party, the finance minister had thus crossed the ideological redline by saying what he did. Already on the defensive over its inability to take on the BJP over the latter’s implicit and explicit support to the accused in the rape and murder of a 8-year old girl in Jammu and for not getting its way with the FIR against an Army officer allegedly responsible for killing three civilians in Shopian, PDP couldn’t afford to be seen to have even ideologically aligned itself with the Sangh Parivar. Hence the drastic decision to relieve Drabu of his job.

This is a move that has created a new imponderable for the J&K coalition, already reeling under a mounting weight of its irreconcilable contradictions. The BJP has hardly helped the matters by rallying to a staunch defence of Drabu. The saffron party has called him the “key pointsman in setting the terms of alliance” and termed his sacking from the Cabinet as “a setback” to the coalition.

“What Drabu said is right. Kashmir is a social problem, not a political issue,” said a BJP leader. Sajad Lone, a key BJP ally in the government said, that Drabu had been "brutally" quoted out of context.

But the knives were already out within the PDP. The party's Vice President Sartaj Madni asked Drabu to retract his statement “if it had been incorrectly reported in the media”. The party's disciplinary panel head Abdur Rahman Veeri asked him to explain the statement attributed to him on the Kashmir issue.

“Your statement has the potential of creating a serious dent in the image and credibility of the party,” Veeri said. “Therefore you are advised to explain as to why a statement detrimental to the party interests was made”.

But no response from Drabu followed. Following day, the CM Mehbooba wrote to Governor NN Vohra that Drabu was no more in the Cabinet.



The fallout

One, regarding Drabu’s own political career. It needs to be seen whether he will wait for his rehabilitation or choose to confront his party over the decision. But if the past is any guide, there is not much that Drabu can do about it. Earlier in 2006, when the PDP-Congress coalition ruled the state, senior PDP leader and the then Finance Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh had been sacked in similar circumstances. Once powerful Beigh is still in the party but lost in the wilderness.


Second, regarding the BJP-PDP alliance. The BJP has publicly opposed Drabu’s sacking and defended his speech. But this is more reflective of the ideological divergence between the coalition partners than a fundamental difference of opinion over Dabu’s exit that could trigger the break-up of the alliance.


Third, regarding Mehbooba Mufti's own position. Here, Mehbooba is on a very firm wicket. By sacking Drabu, she has played to her core constituency in the Valley. Drabu’s reported characterisation of the problem in Kashmir “as a society with social issues” had sparked outrage, with people terming it as yet another instance of the PDP’s ultimate surrender to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.


Drabu’s sacking, therefore, can be seen as Mehbooba’s ideological reassertion. And the dramatic nature of the decision will go some way to compensate for her perceived political subservience to the agenda of the BJP. Also, by sacking one of the most powerful ministers, the CM has further consolidated her grip on the party. And for the figures like Drabu and those before him like Beigh who can boast of the personal profiles beyond the one conferred on them by their parties and therefore see themselves indispensable, Kashmir is a sobering place.


“Politics in Kashmir is delicately nuanced and critically balanced,” wrote senior journalist Mohammad Sayeed Malik in his analytical piece on the development in a local paper. “Men and matters must equate to its exacting standards or perish”.




First published: 13 March 2018, 20:44 IST