Mahbooba Mufti emerged as the biggest beneficiary and Sajjad Lone worst loser of the last week’s political drama in Kashmir

How NC, Congress, Sajjad Lone and others conspired together to see Mahbooba Mufti out of the political isolation

Kashmir Reacts analysis

Till the other day, she was a political outcast, her party in complete disarray, MLAs ridiculing her publicly, and for a man in the streets, she was the most detested one. But on Monday, when Mahbooba Mufti, in response to what she said her well wishers’ advice to take legal recourse against the dissolution of the state assembly, said that she would go to the peoples’ court (face elections) against the dissolution, it spoke of her renewed confidence and self-assurance in the changing political scenario of the state.

Mahbooba Mufti undoubtedly is the biggest beneficiary of the drama staged in Kashmir political theatre, last week. In it she found a corridor to steer herself out of the political hibernation she was dumped in by the BJP in June this year after dislodging her from the government. She is back on the centre-stage. Interestingly, it is her staunch adversaries—Sajjad Lone, Omar Abdullah, Congress leaders, rivals within her own party—who ‘conspired’ together to help her out, directly or indirectly. That speaks of the unpredictability of the Kashmir situation.

Turning heroes into villains and conversely villains into heroes is not new in Kashmir.

In late 80s and early 90s during the embryonic days of militancy, the most hated names one would ever hear in Kashmir streets were Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Saeed. Armed police guards were deployed around Abdullah’s grave to protect it from the wrath of those very people, who once used to call him ‘Bub’ (grandfather) and Sher-e-Kashmir. ‘Mufti’en Qabre, Kashir e nebar’ (Mufti would not be allowed even to be buried in Kashmir) was another popular slogan reverberating in Kashmir along with “hum kiya chahte azadi’. In the coming years, we saw Shiekh Abdullah’s son Farooq Abdullah and grandson Omar Abdullah being voted to power: Mufti Mohammad Saeed becoming chief minister twice and his daughter Mahbooba Mufti holding the highest seat of power till a few months back.

Mahbooba Mufti would not have dreamed ever that it would be her archrivals who ultimately would help her restore political dignity in the pro India political camp. PDP’s sulking MP,  Muzaffar Hussain Baigh gave a flip.

It is in fact Baigh’s repositioning in state politics that precipitated her come back.

Baigh on November 20, announced support for Sajjad Lone’s “third front” saying that he was ready to join it if it takes shape. Sajjad Lone had been trying to weave together a front—third front—against National Conference and PDP hegemony ever since Mahbooba Mufti was dislodged from power. Sajjad shook the National Conference by making intrusions into its stronghold Srinagar by capturing the Srinagar Municipal Corporation through proxy candidates.

One may argue that it was the absence of NC and PDP that saw Sajjad Lone’s foray in the summer capital. But that is how politics works. Politicians do not always thrive or deflate on their performance. It is usually the weaknesses or strong points of the opponents that makes one a good or bad politician. When NC and PDP announced boycott of the elections, Sajjad Lone took it as opportunity to make strides into Srinagar.

Most of the politicians and political parties, presently operating in Jammu and Kashmir with pro India agenda, are the by-product of the politics of boycott.

Many MLAs and ministers (since 1996) would never have thought of ever becoming Panchayat members had there not been the politics of boycott in force. PDP, Engineer Rasheed, Communists and several other so called politicians and MLAs owe their existence exclusively to the absence of other people in the arena. They got an opportunity and exploited it well to their advantage.

So did Sajjad Lone

This had emboldened him to go ahead with a political alliance that could provide an alternative to the NC and PDP. Vacillating between “yes”, “no”, it finally got to be happening when Baigh put his weight behind Lone. That got Mahooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah together to preempt the move. The formation of the government was the most effective way of blocking Sajjad’s way forward. They got Congress too in loop. Interestingly, Congress kept Azad out of the project. It was, instead, Ambika Sony, who played the game for NC, PDP. Though the government formation could not materialize but the objective they wanted was achieved. The dissolution of assembly was a bigger master stroke than the formation of the government.

Sajjad Lone, who, till yesterday, was focus of all political attention by positioning himself as a strong contender for chief minister’s post has all of a sudden turned into a villain. This new scene on the valley’s political landscape will develop in more revealing way in the days to come as the din over the assembly dissolution would die down, and the political parties will begin to focus on elections.

No doubt, Sajjad is still a star among his supporters in his family bastion Handwara and Kupwara but his attempts to meander into outside territories in order to expand his pocket borough has hit a roadblock. Some of his close aides say that it is not permanent. He will again emerge the way he sees himself. Sajjad had wooed an assorted bunch of legislators from the PDP, Congress and NC for his ‘third front’—the immediate aim of which was to form the government.

Reportedly, Sajjad’s coronation was only a matter of time.

But after the dissolution of assembly, barring Imran Ansari, none of them has come forward in support of Lone. Sajjad was also trying to revive his party in the original form his father late Abdula Gani Lone had founded, and he was in touch with most of the north Kashmir leaders who had left the Peoples’ Conference to join other parties—NC, PDP, Congress. Many of them had reportedly agreed to join the “north Block”.

However, that all seems to have dashed into dust, at least, for now.


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