Sant Kumar Sharma
At her maiden press conference after being released from a long custody of 14 months, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti on Friday did what she is best known for : Making dramatic announcements. Expressing regrets for trusting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she asserted that she wouldn’t hold any other flag (a reference to Tricolour) until “our state flag was returned”.
Incidentally, the state flag of J&K was scrapped along with Article 35A and restating of Article 370 last year. Her statement regarding Tricolour is reminiscent of her unsavoury remarks made a couple of years ago when the Ressana case had gained notoriety nationwide.
She accused the ruling BJP of trying to replace the Indian Constitution with its party manifesto. “Our fight is not confined for the restoration of Article 370, but for the resolution of Kashmir issue as well,” she said. Mehbooba, however, did not elaborate as to what solution, if any, she had in mind regarding J&K.
“Those who think we will forget Article 370 are living in a fool’s paradise,” she said, adding she will be the first among political leaders to give her blood if the need arose.
It is not the fight of Dr, Farooq, Sajad Lone or any other leader alone. But it is a fight all the leaders are waging unitedly, she said, urging the ordinary people to remain united for the cause.
“The Central government has taken anti-people decisions. They don’t want people of J&K as they are expendable for them,” she said. Mehbooba said that they are not going to raise any other flag till the flag of erstwhile J&K state is returned.
Asked whether she had any regrets for forging an alliance with the BJP, Mehbooba said she regrets the fact that she trusted Modi, who belonged to a party of which Atal Behari Vajpayee was also a part. The PDP was founded during Vajpayee’s tenure as PM over two decades ago and had enjoyed the Centre’s indirect patronage. It is a party believed to have been created to undermine the almost unchallenged hegemony of the National Conference (NC) party in J&K.
Incidentally, in the 2014 legislative assembly elections held in J&K, the PDP had scored 28/87, mainly in Kashmir. On the other hand, the BJP had scored 25/87 in the Jammu region, and three legislators had supported the party.
Her father late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had forged an alliance with the BJP hoping to remain CM of the state for all of six years. This was the strongest reason for gravitating towards the BJP which was riding on a wave of strong support in March 2015 when Mufti became the CM of a PDP-BJP coalition government.
When she was questioned about her stance on elections, she said : “Mehbooba has nothing to do with the elections.” However, she hastened to add that her party leaders will sit together, along with the signatories of Peoples Alliance and take any decision on the issue.
Incidentally, it needs to be recalled that after her government fell when the BJP withdrew support to her in June 2018, several leaders of PDP had deserted it. Some had joined J&K Apni Party headed by Altaf Bukhari, some had joined the NC and still others had join Sajad Line’s People’s Conference (PC).
In effect, the PDP stands hollowed out altogether and will perhaps need to create a new crop of leadership if it has to face any elections. Many sitting legislators, and even ministers earlier with her, had quit the PDP accusing her of high-handedness.
Her bête noire, the NC of Abdullahs, in contrast, had held together despite challenges. It has not seen any desertions all these years and retained much of its cadre also.