Viewing ‘Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’ (PAGD) as patently exclusive and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti’s assertions on the Indian national flag as unwarranted, the Jammu-based leadership of the two principal opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir has conveyed its resentment to the Valley.
In a dramatic development Monday, three of the PDP’s senior leaders wrote a joint letter to the party President Mehbooba Mufti and announced their resignation. They include former Member of Parliament T.S. Bajwa, former Member of Legislative Council, Ved Mahajan, and a prominent Gujjar leader Choudhary Hussain Ali Wafa.
Based in Jammu, the three politicians alleged that PDP under Mehbooba’s leadership had deviated from the path and the vision given to the party by its founder Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who served two terms as J&K’s Chief Minister after working as India’s first — and till date the last — Muslim Home Minister in 1989-90.
“Despite several undesirable developments and steps, we stood like a rock with the party and the leadership in spite of serious reservations on the handling and response to the challenges of the situation in front of the party. Instead of overcoming the challenges from within and outside by a person of broader consultations and trust, some elements within the party started pulling the party and leadership in a particular direction, thus deviating from the basic principles, agenda and philosophy, making it further difficult to face the saner voices in the society”, their communication to Mehbooba read.
The three leaders added: “In view of this, we feel uncomfortable and suffocated in the party, forcing us to take a difficult decision of leaving the party”.
PDP’s spokesperson Suhail Bukhari confirmed that he had seen such a letter in social media addressed to Ms Mufti. As of now, he said, he would not comment on the letter before ascertaining its genuineness. Nonetheless, he asserted that Mehbooba had not made “any objectionable statement” over the national flag or the country’s sovereignty or integrity.
Last week, Mehbooba had said that nobody in J&K would raise the national flag until J&K’s ‘own flag’ and Statehood, as withdrawn in August 2019, would be restored. It evoked a wave of resentment across India as the Right wing activists staged protests and forced installation of tricolour at PDP’s Jammu office. It was also extensively exploited by the ruling as well as the opposition parties ahead of the Assembly elections in Bihar.
According to well-placed sources, some of the PDP President’s statements and remarks forced the Congress party to distance itself from PAGD. It did not participate in the conglomerate’s three important meetings in Srinagar last fortnight. Among the national political parties, Communist Party of India (Marxist) alone participated in these meetings.
Knowledgeable sources revealed that the Jammu-based leadership of both, the NC and the PDP, has communicated its reservations to the respective party high commands. Both have invariably made it clear that the “creation of an exclusive political domain” would be potentially harmful to the entire secular constituency in the Jammu division. It has been pointed out that there was neither any representation from Jammu and Ladakh nor any accommodation of the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh in the PAGD.
NC’s two senior leaders — Jammu’s provincial president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s political advisor, Devinder Singh Rana, and the former Minister of State for Home, Khalid Najeeb Suharwardi — are known to have expressed their reservations to the PAGD language at the alliance and the party meetings at Mehbooba’s and Farooq Abdullah’s residences last week. They are said to have warned the top leadership against deviating from NC’s ideals of inclusiveness, secularism and pluralism.
Rana confirmed a Jammu delegation’s visit to Srinagar and an extensive interaction with the leaders at Dr Abdullah’s and Mehbooba’s residences. He, however, declined to share details.
“Nation’s unity, integrity and sovereignty cannot be compromised. Exclusivity in J&K politics will only lead to disastrous connotations”, Rana said and added: “An inclusive approach will have to be adopted. No agenda, which is exclusive, region or religion-specific, will work. No disrespect to any symbol of the nation is acceptable.”