When Mehbooba Mufti was occupying ‘hot’ seat in the corridors of power she remained aloof and relied heavily on her own kitchen cabinet
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief, Mehbooba Mufti, is staring at an ‘uncertain‘ future after her party’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
More than anyone else she is herself to be blamed for the poor show as she failed to read the ‘writing’ on the wall.
Resurgent National Conference also made things difficult for the PDP on ground zero and never gave her an opportunity to consolidate her party position during the Lok Sabha poll campaign.
In the aftermath of Lok Sabha results, whisper campaign is already on within the party circles to opt for a total revamp of the party machinery under the new leadership before going into the Assembly polls.
But, now Mehbooba Mufti has been left all alone. A handful of sympathisers and old guards who were trusted lieutenants of Mufti Mohd Sayeed continue to guard their home turf and keeping the party flag high
Mehbooba failed to read warning signs?
When Mehbooba Mufti was occupying ‘hot‘ seat in the corridors of power she remained aloof and relied heavily on her own kitchen cabinet. Instead of receiving the feedback from ground zero she trusted ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of ‘handpicked‘ colleagues and failed to gauge the mood of the common masses.
When she repeatedly ignored senior party workers and sitting MLA’s and MLC’s and promoted ‘family‘ members around 20 PDP leaders walked out of the party after the fall of BJP-PDP alliance govt in June 2018. Party received a major jolt as several mass leaders left the party leaving behind a large army of disgruntled workers and supporters. Either majority of these party workers voted against her or stayed away from the poll process.
Even during the campaign meetings in the run-up to the polls, PDP Chief failed to attract a large number of party supporters in her party’s’ strong bastion of South Kashmir.
And when the poll results were announced she not only failed to win her own seat from Anantnag but also failed to bolster the poll prospects of her party candidates in the fray.
PDP’s growth trajectory?
In 1999, soon after PDP came into existence Mehbooba Mufti had launched valley wide campaign to spread the party programmes. Her party’s ‘healing touch‘ approach yielded fruitful results and in its infancy party won 16 Assembly seats in 2002 Assembly polls.
Even as PDP occupied number two slot the final tally of seats from Kashmir valley after National Conference, Mufti Mohd Sayeed was handed over the power baton to rule the state in alliance with the Congress party.
In 2008, PDP further improved its tally from 16 to 21 but sat in the opposition as National Conference joined hands with the Congress party to govern the state between 2009-2014.
In 2016, the party improved its tally and won the highest number of 28 seats. However, party leadership faltered midway and instead of accommodating BJP’s interests and striking a balance adopted aggressive approach while governing the diverse state of Jammu and Kashmir. The sudden death of PDP patron Mufti Mohd Sayeed in January 2016 propelled her to the ‘hot seat’.
Compared to the first, the second innings of the BJP-PDP alliance witnessed rough weather and brought them at loggerheads with each other.
Her handling of the contentious issues of governance and Kashmir centric agenda setting forced alliance partner, BJP, to finally dump her in June 2018.
Stunned, Mehbooba Mufti was left with little choice but to step down from the office of Chief Minister.
Post Lok Sabha debacle it seems PDP’s party is almost over
PDP had won three Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and the same year party won 28 Assembly seats before stitching an alliance with the BJP.
Around the same time, a large number of party MLA’s left PDP and joined rival political parties in search of greener pastures.
Two former finance ministers, Haseeb Drabu and Altaf Bukhari both left the party denting the image of the party in the eyes of the electorate. Popular Shia leader, Imran Raza Ansari and few MLA’s also jumped the ‘sinking’ ship.
With support from some of the seniors in the party, including Muzaffar Hussain Baig she managed to check ‘open rebellion‘ in the party.
But, now Mehbooba Mufti has been left all alone. A handful of sympathisers and old guards who were trusted lieutenants of Mufti Mohd Sayeed continue to guard their home turf and keeping the party flag high.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Mehbooba’s party had led in all 16 Assembly segments from south Kashmir
Numbers paint a dirty picture
When it comes to number game, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti herself scored lowest votes in the final tally.
In 2014, PDP had won 28 Assembly seats.
But in 2019 party could muster majority votes from only four Assembly segments out of 46 seats in Kashmir valley.
In 2014, when PDP won all three Lok Sabha seats the party had secured majority votes on 39 Assembly seats.
Anger against PDP can be judged from the fact that even from Taral, the birth place of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, BJP candidate secured majority votes leaving behind PDP and NC.
PDP managed wafer-thin majority in four Assembly segments of — Bijbhera, Pulwama, Shopian and Rajpora — in South Kashmir. On the other hand, PDP failed to open its account in central Kashmir districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budham. Party had won at least 7 Assembly seats in 2014 in the same area.
People were angry with Mehbooba
The strife-torn south Kashmir region, which has been a traditional stronghold of the PDP, appeared not to have forgotten the 2016 unrest. Mehbooba’s toffee-and-milk analogy over the protests played a great part in the defeat of former Chief Minister from the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Mehbooba’s party had led in all 16 Assembly segments from south Kashmir.
The PDP had won 11 of the 16 Assembly seats while the NC and Congress had emerged victorious on two seats each in the 2014 Assembly polls in the four districts of south Kashmir. The Kulgam Assembly segment was won by CPM. This time, the NC has emerged leader in seven seats and Congress in four seats.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.