The Mehbooba Moment?

After Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death, analysts believed his daughter would step into his place without any hassles. Many expected Mehbooba Mufti to re-brand the party and effect a change from her father’s surreptitious ways of conducting politics. But the way she has gone around things post-Mufti shows ambivalence and ambiguity are in the DNA of the PDP.

Given that the PDP had, and still has, a power sharing arrangement with BJP under the agenda of alliance, Mehbooba’s ascendancy to power should have been smooth sailing. Mehbooba is either expressing doubts about her father’s purported wisdom to ally with the BJP or she thinks she can outmanoeuvre the wily BJP with her own slyness as she tries to buy a goat at the price of a chicken. And that too from the shop of an expert marketing fraudster.

The BJP is an old hand at scheming politics. The PDP’s conniving ways are falling way short of matching up to that of the BJP. This party has an insidious agenda on Kashmir. The PDP’s dilemma is that it wants to be seen as a pro-Kashmir party but craves for power and can get it only by allying with the BJP. Mehbooba and her party also want the people to see their sneaky and double-dealing politics as political masterstrokes.

The PDP has been straining itself in describing the agenda of alliance as a ‘sacred’ document. In the first place, what is sacred in this document save some mere assurances? It has been only the PDP which has seen ‘sacredness’ in this document. The maximum the BJP has said on the agenda of alliance is that it is intact. BJP doesn’t see any holiness in this document which is more than proof about BJP’s intention towards honouring the commitments made in the document. The BJP sees it as a violable set of agreements.

And that is exactly what had been going on from the time it was signed. This is something Mehbooba has herself been alluding to. She and members of her party are on record that as CM Mufti was made to “run from pillar to post” by the BJP; that Mufti was denied even “constitutionally-approved” funds for running the administration; that Mufti had to resort to “fire fighting” with the BJP over a host of issues like the beef ban, efforts for the abrogation of Article 370, the flag controversy and other issues. In all these matters the BJP had its way. These statements make several things clear. One, the BJP, an expert at arm-twisting, was calling all the shots during Mufti Syed’s ten month rule and PDP could do precious little to stop that. Two, these statements are a clear admission of failure on part of the PDP.

It is interesting to note how Mehbooba has been going around handling this affair. First she said there has to be a time frame for fulfilling the agenda of alliance. That was shot down by the BJP. Then she ratcheted things up and tried to invoke the disputed character of Kashmir saying Kashmir is not like Maharashtra or other Indian states. Later she rolled out another to-do list: CBMs. Nobody knew what these CBMs should be. Perhaps she herself didn’t. The BJP shot that too down with ease. Then she talked about creating a “conducive atmosphere” for government formation – whatever that means. In all this there has been a gradual scaling down of her demands as well as her tone as she has realised her party’s dispensability before New Delhi. Now she has been secretly dispatching her emissaries to New Delhi to pave way for taking over as Chief Minister.

Mehbooba may appear brash and bold, but she has actually proved herself to be an unsure politician. Given her political conduct over the past few months, she would now come across as an unreliable partner to any political formation. She may very well take over as CM as a continuation of the unholy alliance masking it yet again with the ‘sacred’ agenda of alliance, but she has already established one thing:  she is not CM material. She is excellent at creating enigma with her cryptic words, but her actions show she is no more than a one-trick pony.

Interestingly, PDP’s opposite number the National Conference has been giving some caustic running commentary on Mehbooba’s and her party’s conduct post-Mufti as if that party and its leadership are any less devious than the PDP and its leadership — a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black.

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