Lament for Mehbooba Mufti

For up to three months after the former J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s  sudden demise, the daughter Mehbooba Mufti refused to resume the alliance with the BJP pending fulfilment of the key commitments in the Agenda  of Alliance like the return of power projects, progress on AFSPA revocation, talks with Hurriyat, besides a degree of freedom from adapting its politics to the BJP’s nationalist straightjacket. But in the end, Mufti ended up settling for power only, losing the golden opportunity to enhance her political credibility and become a far bigger leader than she was. She agreed to become the Chief Minister without the BJP-led union government acceding to any of her demands. Thereafter her politics seemed to merge seamlessly with the BJP. She all but gave up on her ideological moorings, preferring to speak on Kashmir through New Delhi’s prism.

But Mehbooba completely lost it during the five month long unrest that broke out following the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016. She didn’t step down even when close to 100 persons died and more than a thousand were completely or partially blinded. On the contrary, she made the heartless remarks which almost justified the killings and blindings. One of the most infamous was that “the (stone-throwing) youth hadn’t gone to a security camp to give toffees”. What she didn’t do was for her to honourably step down, saying that she can’t preside over the killings of her own people, the people who had put her in power. 

What she also didn’t do was stand for her politics, her core strength. She had risen to power by appealing to Kashmiri nationalism. But she let go of this ideological narrative so effortlessly and even cheaply. The turn in Mehbooba’s brand of politics left many people shocked, more so in Kashmir, her core constituency. Ever since People’s Democratic Party was floated in 1999, Mehbooba had worked tirelessly on the ground to forge a political base for the party. She appropriated Hurriyat narrative and made aspects of it mainstream, a strategy that for a while seemed to play well with masses in Kashmir. So much so that she steered PDP to power within three years of its founding. The party’s first term in power with Congress went so well that the people started reposing more and more trust in it. With every new election, the party only increased its seats tally.  That is, until she ran into the BJP. Things have become increasingly difficult ever since. Though unrest in 2016 divested her leadership of much of its credibility, her tame politics since has dented it further.  She also played a willing second fiddle to the BJP, letting it dictate not only the priorities of the coalition but also renege on the agenda of alliance.  As of now Mehbooba is politically finished. Though her return to political centre stage will be tough, only thing that can be hoped to get her back in public favour in the long term is the resurrection of her intrinsic politics.



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