After the recent reshuffle in the cabinet, albeit at a small level, chinks in PDPs armour were too visible. The story that an unelected lot has taken the family route to shepherd the lawmakers actually walked to the front pages. Within days, an ‘alternative narrative’ started making rounds in power corridors indicating the ally might have played a Kutaliya. But now that is also being disputed reports Tasavur Mushtaq
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi flying back to Delhi and just sworn Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in a press conference, busy crediting Pakistan and the militants for the smooth conduct of elections, tensions were running high behind the curtains. It was not a possible reaction to his statements (that eventually happened) but who will handle what is in the new government.
Naeem Akhter, Mufti’s long term aide, was keen to be Tourism Minister, and this keenness somehow walked to state’s Chief Executive. “No,” Mufti is reported to have said. “Give him Education because he is able to understand what saffronization of academics is all about. No. Not tourism.”
There was not any move indicating that BJP led central government was keen to intervene in state’s NCERT curriculum. The government took the sports route to celebrate the UN-upheld Yoga day. Akhter retained his powerful position even under Mebbooba’s leadership. He took a series of decisions undoing education’s Tara Chand, Peerzada Sayeed and Akbar Lone days. It involved massive political costs as most of the teacher’s fraternity was opposed to Akhter’s new classroom discipline. Last week, Akhter was out of Education. Elevated, he moved to money-rich Roads & Buildings ministry.
For a babu-turned political activist whose “constituency” was “lost” with the “demise of Mufti Sahab,” as he earlier said, his party colleagues reacted sharply to the ‘change’. Those who were unsettled by the minor reshuffle, triggered by the re-entry of Altaf Bukhari into the cabinet, this time as Education Minister, were quite harsh in their reactions. One of them actually went public.
Abid Ansari, the Zadibal lawmaker took a strong exception to his nephew Imran Ansari not being elevated by a better portfolio, as was reportedly promised to him. He said the decisions in the party are being taken by Naeem Akhtar and Pirzada Mansoor Hussain which will have a “decimating effect” on PDP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha by-elections. Terming him ‘a BJP man”, he accused Hussain of blackmail and back-biting. “Mansoor knows the job well how to widen the gap between party legislators and workers,” Ansari told reporters.
“It is Akhtar and Mansoor who are calling shots in the party and it is because of these two persons that Imran Raza Ansari was not allocated a new portfolio,” Abid said. “These men will feel the heat when Srinagar will go to polls for Parliament seat.”
Son-in-law of incumbent head of Waqf Board, Mansoor replaced Pir Mohammad Hussain, as the lawmaker from Shangus in 2008. However, in 2014 he lost. Considered close to the PDP leadership, he, however, was feeling neglected for some time till he was appointed political adviser to the Chief Minister.
With Akhter, Rafi Ahmad Mir and Sartaj Madni, Mansoor is considered to be part of the reported “super-cabinet” that, many in PDP insist is the main decision-making body. They are being increasingly accused of making functioning of various ministers difficult by “playing chess”. Unlike Akhter, one of the closest confidants of Mufti for a very long time and who has been in House of Elders for his third term, Madni, Mir and Mansoor lost their elections. They are now being accused of taking a different route to shepherd people with mandate.
There are tensions at the party positions. People feeling irked at some level are given party positions as ‘have-nots’ moved to Corporations and Boards. Mehboob Beig was recently taken to party Political Affairs Committee. Mohammad Shafi Wani was accommodated as Treasurer as Nazir Khan moved in from Beerwa. Sajad Mufti was accommodated as state secretary after Madani’s uneventful south Kashmir visit.
“I do not know if it is dissent management or power balancing,” an official who is a keen watcher of developments, said. “But what I know is it is impacting governance.”
Imran Ansari has been uncomfortable with his status in the cabinet from day one. With two lawmakers in the family and sizable influence in Kashmir’s Shia Muslim community, he was quite vocal to assert his rights over a better portfolio that will enable him to “work for the people”. That was the reason why he was the first minister to put in his papers after portfolios were reallocated. He had a detailed meeting with the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and pleaded his case. There were no commitments, however. A day later, he took off to Delhi and has possibly flown abroad. His resignation has not yet been sent to the Raj Bhawan, indicating that chances of his return are seemingly not bleak.
But the larger issue in PDP is not that two ministers resigned and one returned. After transfer of power, there have been series of decisions indicating people feeling pushed to extremes. The serious jolt was when Tariq Hameed Karra resigned. Termed to be king-slayer for defeating Dr Farooq Abdullah in the last Lok Sabha elections, he resigned as MP, the first such case in history, and the party. Now he is a Congressman.
Soon after came the resignation of Prof Amitabh Matoo from an advisory position with a cabinet status. He put in his papers and flew to Australia. After a series of communications, sources said, he has resumed his duties. While he is still in office, the embarrassment in between his going and return speak about the existing tensions in the power corridors.
Then came the resignation of Ansari and Basharat Bukhari. The latter had a detailed meeting with Ms Mufti in presence of Madni and Tasaduq Mufti, late Mufti’s only son who left cinematography and recently joined the party his father founded, and resumed his duties as Horticulture Minister.
“I had sent communications to the Chief Minister in January and after my resignation detailing the issues confronting the party and the government,” Bukhari told Kashmir Life. He was annoyed from being shifted from a powerful Revenue and Rehabilitation portfolio to smaller horticulture but he never made it public.
“I was the Law Minister for 10 months and then I was Revenue Minister for another 10 months,” Bukhari said after calmly reporting to his duties. “The problem is that when you get into a ministry, you try understanding things and then you shift. When do you contribute?” He said no ministry is bigger or smaller but there should be time to work.
Nobody knew why Bukhari was shifted out of Revenue. The political grapevine is that the response that the government in Delhi read out, in response to a question in parliament, on West Pakistan refugees was an embarrassing situation for BJP. Then, they were facing elections and the issue of domicile certificates was a poll issue. The response was based on the details supplied by the J&K Revenue Ministry. Whether or not that was correct is not known but the fact is that the refugees living in J&K have been given these certificates from the Congress-NC government era.
On that analogy, Dr Haseeb Drabu losing the Culture Ministry, he was passionate about, could also be understandable. A firm believer in sub-nationality cultural revival, he might have been moved well before creating a new narrative. But there are no clear answers.
BJP and PDP had jointly decided to use performance as the main plank for cabinet reshuffle. But when PDP was ready, BJP was not. There is a strong possibility that BJP may avail this option later this year.
“I do not think, PDP was forced in anyway by its ally,” a senior PDP leader, close to Chief Minister said. “She is her own person; she does seek inputs but decides on her own.” The minister said that at one point of time she was requested by many party-men that Altaf Bukhari should return to cabinet but she disagreed. “Now she did it on her own,” he said. “She does not interfere with the working of the ministers but is readily aware of things happening.” The minister said while saffronization of curriculum could be a reality in other states, it is impossible in J&K given the diversity of demography. “You have Gayatri Mantar being read as prayers in parts of Jammu and Naat in other parts and the curriculum is NCERT that is unchanged for so many decades. Where from came this gossip?”
There are people like Javed Mustafa Mir, Abdul Majid Padder and Mohammad Ashraf Mir, who are silent, but have a great appetite to know: what was the criterion for the midway shift?