Mehbooba firming up her grip over party and government

Mohammad Sayeed Malik. Dated: 1/7/2018 1:39:14 PM

Two years after the demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7, 2016, his daughter and successor, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is steadily consolidating her grip over the affairs of both, the People’s Democratic Party and its ideologically incompatible coalition with the BJP.
There are now definite signs and indications that Mehbooba has gained sufficient self-confidence and experience, overcoming her initial reservation and apprehensions over the past about two years, to take independent decisions, in both the spheres.
To that extent she vindicates her father’s choice, though she has yet a long way to go to establish her ability as a confident, decisive administrator and capable organizer—hallmark of Mufti Sayeed’s leadership.
I know it for a fact that the decision to induct her younger brother, Mufti Tassaduq Hussain, into the coalition ministry, one year after his formal entry into politics in the wake of their father’s demise, was her own. No doubt she took her time, weighed its pros and cons but at the end it was her own choice, ‘on its merit’. This was followed with a few significant changes in the PDP’s organizational set-up ahead of Panchayat elections and midway through the 6-year tenure of the state legislative assembly ending in 1920.
Assertion of her authority is more pronounced than before. Significantly, her mass contact programme occupies a good part of her routine. That, again, was typical trait of her father who rose from the ranks through hard work and remained in constant touch with grassroot workers.
Yet it is also a fact that at certain crucial moments she gives the impression that she still misses her father’s protective umbrella. More so, in the decision making process. Mufti’s administrative and organizational acumen was remarkable. He has left an indelible mark in both, political and administrative spheres.
Facing challenges and swimming against the current was Mufti Sayeed’s USP. Enormity of challenge hardly, if ever, daunted him. Floating PDP against deeply entrenched National Conference and opting for coalition with the BJP are two cases in the point.
He vindicated himself in the thorny state politics in 2002, after a pretty long arduous innings, when he became the chief minister with the Congress support, deposing Abdullah’s and ending their political domination.
That his PDP was no flash in the pan and that it had come to stay in state politics was convincingly demonstrated in the next two rounds—2009 & 2015.
It is the daunting load of such legacy that Mehbooba has inherited. From being seen as a reluctant entrant, in the immediate aftermath of Mufti’s demise in 2016, to the inclusion of her brother in the ministry, she has come a long way. My reading is that she feels that Tassaduq with his clean public image and sense of purpose would be an asset to her as they advance to face the next assembly elections. Mehbooba’s convincing electoral victory from Anantnag assembly constituency after her father’s demise came as political legitimization of her succession.
Even so, she appears to be allergic to attracting the repulsive ‘dynasty’ taunt. To mitigate that odium Mehbooba asked her maternal uncle, Farooq Andrabi, to quit before Tassaduq’s induction into the government. Much would, however, depend on how eventually Tassaduq performs. Kashmir is notoriously known as graveyard of reputations.
In Kashmir’s slippery politics, credibility and relevance are both tricky factors. It took Mufti Sayeed more than three decades to gain both. It was a hard struggle, at times quite daunting. But his endurance and untiring spirit enabled him to brave all odds and eventually establish relevance of his vision and leadership. Nobody is more conscious of this than Mehbooba who closely watched her father’s trajectory and later got sucked right into it.
It would be too much to expect Mufti’s successors to go for as high stakes as he liked to do if and when confronted by any such choice. His partnership with the BJP was one such case. Good, bad or indifferent, this part of Mufti’s legacy entails uphill task for his successor.
The manifesto of the PDP-BJP coalition called ‘Agenda of Alliance’ was conceived by Mufti in response to aspirations of his followers and supporters (in the Valley) who gave the largest chunk of assembly seats to his party, followed by the BJP (in Jammu region).
Not an inch of movement has taken place on its implementation. With the next assembly polls coming nearer this issue is bound to impact upon the credibility of Mehbooba’s leadership as well as the prospects of her party’s future. And credibility has traditionally been in short supply in Kashmir politics.
Unless the other side, BJP, plays ball the PDP would be in serious trouble and its poll prospects would be endangered. How Mehbooba eventually tackles this critical issue and retains—or loses-- her credibility would determine the future course of state politics and also affect the prospects of her PDP.
The second death anniversary of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is an appropriate occasion for his successors to contemplate their prospects and challenges.



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