Mahbooba Mufti’s ‘hemlock drink’

Lust for power inflames heart more than any other passion.

By Rashid Ahmad

You have got to pick your poison, so goes the saying. And when the moment came for PDP chief Mahbooba Mufti, she opted it in the form of alliance with the BJP. That is, at least, what she would like us to believe. Socrates, who is deemed as the founder of this ‘poisonous theory’, took it for his belief and conviction. But one wonders as to what prompted Mahbooba Mufti to become her own executioner when she had no such compulsion or obligation? Her faith was not at test. Her people had not wanted her to do it. Why she then chose this suicidal path?

She knew BJP more than anyone else. She had seen how BJP treated her father Mufti Mohammad Saeed. When Mufti Saeed went for alliance with the BJP, some people gave him the benefit of doubt as the BJP, by then, had not been tested in political business with its partners in Jammu and Kashmir. But when came the moment of reckoning, BJP proved the worst. No chief minister had been ill-treated or humiliated earlier by New Delhi as much as Mufti Mohammad Saeed. From foot soldiers to the top commanders, everybody within BJP (in and outside the government) has his share of rebuking Mufti on one or the other pretext. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose his position and platform to snub Mufti Saeed by telling him not to advance advices on Kashmir.

Mahbooba Mufti, as daughter and PDP president, was eyewitness to all the humiliation and disgrace Mufti Saeed was meted out. After his death, Mahbooba Mufti chose those very people to join hands with.  When she was driven out of power, she likened her association with the BJP to that of Socrates’ hurrying the cup of poison hemlock.

But as we know poison is not always deadly for everyone. For some people, it is life-saver as well.

There is a real life anecdote I have been told about a person (of my village) who once decided to commit suicide to escape social stigma for suffering a particular disease. He took rat poison available at his home when nobody from the family was around. After some minutes, the poison showed its effect and he shouted with pain calling the attention of the neighbours. It is some 60-year old incident when medical treatment was not available in our immediate neighourhood. In chaos and confusion somebody gave him coagulated milk (curd made of raw milk) to drink. Soon after, the man showed the signs of recovery. By the evening he was quite fit. And much to his own surprise (as most people were not aware of his problem), he discovered that his disease too had gone. He is still alive, hale and hearty, in his late 70s. I know this man personally.          

Our mainstream politicians belong to that class of people for whom poison is antidote. They cannot live without it.

After the death of her father, Mahbooba Mufti showed some reluctance in forming the government with the BJP. But that was not because of some political belief or principle. Apparently, it was due to BJP’s ill-treatment of her father, mostly during his last days when he was in the hospital. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tripped 245 km to visit Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) Chandigarh to enquire about his health. Around the same time Mufti Saeed remained admitted to the AIIMS (Delhi) for weeks, just yards away from the Prime Minister’s house but he never bothered to see him. On his death too, Mufti remained ‘nobody’ for Modi and his ministers. It was at the last moment that the finance minister Arun Jaitley came to see off Mufti’s body at the airport when it was being flown to Srinagar.

Mahbooba Mufti seemingly put conditions on government formation. BJP, however, went for plan B. It hobnobbed with B-grade leaders within and outside the PDP to form the government sans Mahbooba. As it appeared that the plan B was getting into reality, she over-jumped to leave everybody behind. She forgot the humiliation her father had been subjected to once she saw other people showing their willingness to work with the BJP.

 Lust for power, as is said, inflames heart more than any other passion.       

In 2000 when National Conference passed resolution on autonomy in the state assembly, then Vajpayee-led BJP government at the centre was infuriated over the audacity of Farooq Abdullah whose son Omar Abdullah was a minister in the central government to cross over the line. L K Advani, in his autobiography “My country, my life” says that Farooq Abdullah was given a choice between his son and autonomy. He says that after that Farooq Abdullah never talked of autonomy.

As the indications are, Mahbooba Mufti has not burnt down all bridges with the BJP. She gave hints big and loud that she was ready to take another poisonous drink if the BJP willed. The first major hint, in this regard, came on August 8 when she ordered her two members in the Rajya Sabha to abstain from voting for the election of deputy chairman.

Another indication came on August 17 when she led a 15-member delegation of her party leaders and legislators to participate in the last rites of former Prime Minister and BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She had called all her party MLAs to accompany her but only 15 turned up.

As reports suggest she is again trying to build bridges with the BJP by seeking meeting with Amit Shah. Some middle people are reportedly working on it but the Shah of India, presently, is not in a mood to oblige her.

This is perhaps for BJP’s own compulsions.

By dislodging her from the government, BJP took a position nationally that Mahbooba Mufti did not fit in her scheme of things in Jammu and Kashmir. It is now trying other options. Installing a chief minister of its choice is the immediate task before the BJP in the state. It could be a BJP man or some keen ally. By granting audience to Mahbooba Mufti, Amit Shah would do it at his own peril and price.

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