After last week’s one-on-one meeting between Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, and BJP’s national general secretary, Ram Madhav, there again seems to be ‘quiet, easy, smooth and suave’ for her at the BJP front as PDP’s partner in the government has acknowledged her concerns and agreed to stick to ‘coalition dharma’.
She also seized the meeting held here to convey to the BJP leadership that any attempt to rake up contentious and sensitive issues in public domain particularly those which have the potential of disturbing the political psyche of the State’s majority community at this stage would only make her task more difficult.
Sources in the PDP said that Mufti has been reassured that the BJP is interested in smooth and successful running of the coalition government and would ask its cadres to exercise restraint and not to issue any individual level statements that may create problems for the Chief Minister and the government.
While Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister is reported to be satisfied with the assurances from her partner in the government, it is her party’s internal squabble creeping in disturbing her. Sources in the PDP said that Mufti is trying hard to cope with the situation intrepidly and is making a conscientious effort to ensure the internal strife does not take a serious turn for her or the party.
It all began with Mufti’s showing reluctance to form new government with the saffron party following the death of her father and then Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, on January 7 this year as she would publicly ask for beforehand J&K-specific Confidence-Building-Measures (CBMs) in the belief these may create congenial atmosphere in which she could find it more easy to step into her father’s shows.
The nearly three month long stalemate, however, gave birth to a serious form of internal dissent led by a PDP mogul Syed Altaf Bukhari who had allegedly made a furtive effort to form a government with the BJP when talks between Mufti and saffron party’s leadership in Delhi had broken down in March this year.
It was for this reason that Bukhari who had served as an influential Cabinet rank minister in the previous PDP-BJP government was dropped unceremoniously when Ms. Mufti was sworn in as the 13th chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir along with 22 ministers on April 4.
Bukhari had, however, denied he was leading any pressure or dissident group within the PDP and insisted that he did not keep his ties with the BJP any secret as his main objective was to avoid thrusting another election upon the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “One year passed since the polls were held in 2014. I didn’t want people to undergo further hardships. If anyone says I was leading the pressure group, I would say in return that my basic objective was to make Mehbooba Mufti state’s chief minister,” he had said.
But the party sources said that as many as 18 PDP MLAs were ready to go with Mr. Bukhari or had, at least, endorsed his view on Mufti’s earlier disinclination. Mufti pre-empted the situation from taking any ugly turn for her by deciding to form a government with the BJP. Nonetheless, the failed rebellion created a sort of bad blood in the party and Mufti felt almost betrayed by some of those she trusted the most.
The man who played the whistleblower and, in fact, openly accused Bukhari of trying to ditch his leader is another senior party leader and Lok Sabha member from Srinagar Tariq Hameed Karra. Ahead of Mufti’s swearing in, Karra had had a one-on-one meeting with her during which he told her to drop three ministers including Bukhari “who played a dubious role and are responsible for the failure of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.”
The bickering between Bukhari and Karra has continued giving some anxious moments to the PDP president. Also, some other senior party functionaries including ministers are not any friendly with one another and this is reflected in some of their public utterances.
Also select local newspapers are being used by them to run each other down or, at least, belittle their antagonists’ attainments. Even crucial official information is occasionally leaked through a section of media to build pressure on the Chief Minister or put her in poor light. In this ‘war of nerves’ the opposition and some bureaucrats are also playing a role.
While Bukhari is trying hard to stage a ‘grand’ comeback, Karra and some others are reported to be deadly against assigning him any responsibility in the government. “This is a kind of bizarre situation which is causing worry to the party leader,” the sources said.
However, PDP chief spokesman Dr. Mehboob Beg strongly denied reports of internal bickering in the party. “I don’t think there is anything like this…there is nothing like this in our party.” Asked about Karra being deadly against Bukhari and having publicly spoken against him, he said, “I think he (Karra) alone will be in a position to talk on this. If you ask me there are no such issues there in the party.”