On Wednesday, PDP’s leadership from South Kashmir went into a huddle at its head office in Srinagar. Chaired by Party Vice President Abdul Rahman Veeri, the leaders discussed “the issues confronting the state”. The meeting followed immediately after a senior leader Mohammad Khalil Bandh resigned from the basic membership of the party. Bandh’s resignation follows a number of such exits by the senior leaders from the party over the past year. This has left the PDP, once a vaunted political force, reeling and its leader Mehbooba Mufti struggling to hold her flock together. The situation for her has become more unenviable considering the state is heading into a possible Assembly polls later this year.
And the party is unlikely to find winning replacements for the exited candidates. More so, when the leaders who have left command a significant support base in their respective constituencies.
Though the PDP still has several strong leaders, the prevailing unpopularity of the party is going to make it an uphill task for them to retain their seats. There is every chance that the some more of them might be on their way out.
This reduces the PDP to a small group of leaders comprising Mehbooba and the loyalists including her family members, some of them with little to no constituency. This has raised a question mark over the future of the PDP as a political force in the state. The situation looks grimmer for the PDP as unlike the rival National Conference, it is not a cadre based party.
The PDP was founded by the late Mufti Mohammed Syed, Mehboobas father, in 1999 amid growing public disaffection with the then ruling National Conference. And it did benefit from the disillusionment with the NC over the first decade and a half of its existence. The decline followed soon after its alliance with the BJP in 2015.
Though the coalition was formed with the best of intentions, with the parties taking time to forge the Agenda of Alliance which worked out their political differences and outlined a plan for development, it didnt go well from the word go. In the first 100 days while the political and ideological confrontation hurtled to the centre stage, almost hobbling the government, the governance too didnt get much forrader. Also, while the BJP aggressively propagated its ideological stance on the state, even initiating direct and indirect steps to execute it on the ground, the PDP didnt appear to stand up to its partner.
By the time, the BJP unilaterally withdrew its support to the PDP in June 2018, Mehbooba had not only exhausted all her political capital but turned herself into a hate-figure. This was why, far from triggering any protests, Mehboobas loss of power was widely celebrated.
PDP is certainly at cross-roads. Mehbooba more so. Her three year term in the government is likely to haunt her for a while now. The PDP and Mehboobas relevance and survival lies in how she reinvents her core politics and makes it consistent and credible.