PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti struggling to find leaders willing to hold her own party’s flag in Jammu and Kashmir

ED grills Mehbooba in a money laundering case

ED grills Mehbooba in a money laundering case
ED grills Mehbooba in a money laundering case

My hands are clean, I have nothing to hide: Mehbooba

On July 28, 2017, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had for the first time crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha by publicly claiming that if the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir is tampered with, or the Permanent Resident Act (35A) — a provision that empowers the state’s permanent residents — removed, there will be “no one to shoulder the Indian flag in the Valley.”

Four years later, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Mehbooba Mufti herself struggling to find leaders who are willing to hold the flag of her own party in Jammu and Kashmir.

The majority of former cabinet ministers/ legislators and junior party leaders who stood behind her even after the death of PDP patron Mufti Mohd Sayeed resigned from the primary membership of the party and joined the newly launched Jammu and Kashmir Apni party and other political parties.

In her petition, Mehbooba said she had not been informed if she is being summoned as an accused or as a witness.

More recently, one of the senior-most PDP leaders and a founding PDP member Muzaffar Hussain Beigh too joined the Peoples Conference of Sajjad Lone while his wife, Safina Beigh is set to resign from the PDP anytime.

Here the question arises, what has gone wrong? Why did the majority of leaders and significantly those who were founding members of the party too decided to jump the ship leaving her in the middle of a storm?

Her miseries were compounded further when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigating cases of money laundering served the summons to her to appear before her in connection with the case in the first week of March 2021.

In response, Mehbooba decided against appearing in person even after the Delhi High Court refused to stay the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate.

Soon after the ED summons was served to her in the first week of March 2021 she challenged the validity of the summons and asked the Court to quash the summons.

In her petition, Mehbooba said she had not been informed if she is being summoned as an accused or as a witness.

“GOI’s tactics to intimidate & browbeat political opponents to make them toe their line has become tediously predictable. They don’t want us to raise questions about its punitive actions & policies. Such short-sighted scheming won’t work,” Mehbooba had tweeted soon after receiving the ED notice.

The results of recently held District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir clearly revealed PDP is fast losing its base in Kashmir valley.

Mehbooba had no idea what was coming her way?

At the time of crossing the ‘Lakshman Rekha‘, Mehbooba Mufti had never imagined what was coming her way.

A year later on June 19, 2018, BJP pulled out of the PDP-BJP alliance government headed by her and the President’s rule was imposed in J&k.

On August 5, 2019, the BJP government at the centre went ahead with its promised agenda and revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and also bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.

Mehbooba Mufti was slapped with charges of the Public Safety Act (PSA) as she remained in detention for a period of 14 long months. She was set free on 13 October 2020.

Since then she has been struggling to keep her own house in order.

Left with only a handful of leaders in her camp, Mehbooba Mufti is also facing a credibility crisis. She is no longer trusted by the electorate.

The results of recently held District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir clearly revealed PDP is fast losing its base in Kashmir valley. In the Jammu region, her father Mufti Mohd Sayeed had carefully groomed local leaders and expanded the base of the party but in the DDC polls, PDP won only one seat from Rajouri district.

In the 2014 Assembly polls, PDP had won 28 Assembly seats. In contrast to this PDP could register a victory on only 27 DDC seats out of a total of 140 seats in the DDC polls.

PDP had contested these maiden elections after the abrogation of Article 370 under the banner of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on the plank of restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the statehood to J&K.

PDP harping on the slogan of restoration of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

With assembly elections still far away PDP is now making fresh efforts to find a foothold by harping on the agenda of restoration of Article 370 and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

In comparison to another mainstream political party – the National Conference the PDP top brass is making a conscious choice of standing up against the Union government to resurrect its political fortunes.

Party spokesman Firdous Tak in Jammu said, its fight for the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is not against the country but for the country and to safeguard its Constitution.

He also accused the Centre of misusing its various agencies to force the party into submission after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

He alleged that the recent Enforcement Directorate’s summons to party president Mehbooba Mufti was part of the Centre’s ploy to harass the PDP leadership as the party, he said, is the last “post of resistance” against the Centre’s onslaught on Jammu and Kashmir.

”We are not against this country and even the government. We are against the constitutional blunder and onslaught on Jammu and Kashmir,” Tak said referring to the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories in August 2019.

He said PDP is demanding the rights guaranteed to the people of J&K within the framework of the Constitution. “Our fight is not against this country but for the country and to safeguard the constitution. We are fighting for this country in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

After August 2019, he said, the PDP lost a large number of its “towering and beloved” leaders because “we are being made victims of conspiracies and harassment”. He said PDP did not accept the central government’s decision which was forced on the people of Jammu and Kashmir through the “misuse of the Parliament ” to pave the way for an “autocratic invasion” of Jammu and Kashmir. “Our youth president Waheed-ur-Rehman is in jail. His only crime is that he represented mainstream aspiration in J&K. He was told either to leave the party or stand behind the bars,” Tak said. “Former minister Naeem Akhtar and former vice president Sartaj Madni too have been jailed.

The properties and bank accounts of our leaders are being scrutinized and those whose family members are in the government service are being transferred and subjected to probes,” he alleged.

Tak said while many of the party leaders did not succumb to this harassment, some others left the party and joined the BJP-created ”shadow” political groups.

Most of the PDP leaders either joined J&K Apni Party led by former minister Altaf Bukhari or the People’s Conference led by former minister Sajad Ghani Lone. There are, however, some elements who are trying to mislead the public that the PDP is finished, he said. “They (BJP) created thousands of fake IDs on social media to create a narrative to defame mainstream political leadership in J&K and convey a message in the country that everything is alright in J&K, contrary to the ground situation,” he claimed.

She told reporters assembled outside the Zonal office complex of ED, ” you don’t need any rocket science to understand what they are trying to do.

Mehbooba grilled by ED?

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Mehbooba Mufti was questioned by the officials of the Enforcement directorate in Srinagar on Thursday for over five hours in a money laundering case.

According to Mehbooba, ED officials questioned her over her father’s property in Bijbehara, how much money was spent on his grave, how she distributed money from her discretionary fund while remaining in the office of Chief Minister.

Emerging out of the long questioning session Mehbooba Mufti tried to put up a brave front claiming, “my hands are clean, I have nothing to hide”.

She told reporters assembled outside the Zonal office complex of ED, ” you don’t need any rocket science to understand what they are trying to do. One who speaks against you (Government of India) is being either booked under sedition charges or being summoned by the investigative agencies.” She added dissent has been criminalized in the country”. “This country is being ruled by either ED, CBI or NIA. This country is not running according to the Constitution of India, it is running according to a political party’s agenda.”

She, however, made it clear that there will be no change in the party’s strategy over fighting for the rights of people including the restoration of Article 370.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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