A year after Mehbooba’s departure as Jammu Kashmir’s Chief Minister

Mehbooba Mufti, PDP leader and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo: PTI)

A year ago, on this day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah pulled the plug on the coalition government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP in Jammu & Kashmir. They decided that the government headed by Mehbooba Mufti needed to be sent packing as its continuation was harming their party.

It is most likely that none of 25 party MLAs, nor its 11 MLCs knew anything about Modi-Shah plans. Most of them were happy being part of the ruling dispensation of the state.

Before that, voters across Jammu region were getting alienated from the BJP from where it had won all its 25 seats in the 2014 Legislative Assembly elections. Besides other factors, abrasive manner of the handling of the infamous Ressana case by Mehbooba had damaged the ties with the BJP badly.

If is often said that hindsight is 20:20 and yet we cannot avoid looking at things in rear-view mirror, so to say. There is little doubt that most BJP ministers in the Mehbooba government had failed to deliver. From March 1, 2015, to June 19, 2018, what stood out more starkly was their incompetence, and failure to lead, rather than any imaginative and innovative solutions they applied in the ministries they headed.

Of course, these people from the BJP were totally raw as far as governance goes. But contrast their performance with that of Dr Jitendra Singh in the Modi ministry at the Centre. He had the PM’s backing, and that became possible only because he did what was expected of him. It can thus be said that he acquitted himself well in the ministries he handled.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said about Dr Nirmal Singh, who was the Deputy Chief Minister to Mufti Mohammed Sayeed as also to his daughter Mehbooba later. On the very first day of becoming Deputy CM, perhaps within two hours or so, he was wrong footed by Mufti when the latter praised Pakistan and argued for the release of Massarat Alam. Nirmal watched in awe and could not utter a word of protest, or reservation against Mufti.

This was Mufti’s first major blow to the trust put in him by the top leadership of the BJP, and of course the RSS. His manner of articulation served to alienate them so completely. In November 2015, Mufti again managed to rile Modi at a public meeting in Srinagar when he advocated talks with Pakistan. Modi reacted almost instantly when he chided Mufti in his speech later that he did not need “anyone’s advice” on that score.

This clearly showed that Modi and Mufti, the BJP and the PDP, were not on the same page on various issues. Both parties knew from day one their deep rooted differences but ultimately failed to keep them from snowballing. The PDP had higher stakes in the coalition government for it was leading the government.

Of course, it lost far more than the BJP when the latter decided to pull the rug from under Mehbooba’s feet last year. Mehbooba often acted in haste, as she had done in case of Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu whom she dismissed summarily.

Her systematic undermining of senior party leaders like Basharat Bukhari and Imran Reza Ansari also served to weaken the party. Propping up her brother, Tassaduq Mufti, as virtual number two in the cabinet did not help either.

The elder Mufti kept on harping about the Vajpayee doctrine on Kashmir even when he was dealing with Modi. Mehbooba did the same during her tenure, perhaps unnecessarily rubbing Modi the wrong way. This only acted as a catalyst in Modi developing a strong antipathy for them. This sense of unease and unfriendly overtures from Modi become clear when we consider the fact that he did not go to meet ailing Mufti at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Mehbooba sure overestimated invincibility vis-a-vis the BJP after she became the CM on her father’s demise. She used to behave in an imperious manner earlier when her father was around. He was there to protect her and act as a shield against her detractors.

Her unchanged behaviour as CM was the single most important factor for her fall. Mehbooba’s abrasive way of reacting to any developments did nothing to help her cause. When some party leaders left the PDP, she compared them to garbage and this is likely to haunt her for a long time.

She has a long and bumpy road ahead in trying to rebuild the PDP. With many party leaders choosing to part ways with her, it is not easy for her to regroup party workers. Her garbage remark, made in extreme anger and carelessness, will perhaps impede reconciliation with many of the leaders in the future as well.

The father-daughter duo did all within their powers to undermine party veteran Muzaffar Beigh. They virtually excluded him from any role in the party’s day to day functioning in the state. It is ironical that Mehbooba could think of no other person than Beigh to try to revive the party once she lost the Chief Ministership.

Undermining people like Beigh, Bukhari, Drabu and Ansari caused grievous injury to the party apparatus. Beigh can only try to help Mehbooba revive the PDP but the damage done by the latter runs too deep.

In a meeting with Governor SP Malik on Tuesday, Mehbooba exchanged pleasantries, as also her ideas about the state. Had she been meeting him as CM then had things would not have gone against her on June 19, 2018!

Mehbooba Mufti often acted in haste in her heydays and she can now brood over each of her actions leisurely. Modi is around till May 2024 and there is little optimism for her party managing to reach even double digits when the elections are held for the state assembly. Whenever.

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