If Mehbooba Mufti loses, it could spell the end of the road for her

Fighting to keep the PDP together, it is important for former J & K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to win the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat. A defeat will make it doubly difficult to prevent desertions

PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Gulzar Bhat

For Mehbooba Mufti, who is pitted in a three-cornered contest with National Conference candidate Hasnain Masoodi and Congress party's Ghulam Ahmad Mir at Anantnag, a loss may well signal the end of the political road for her and accelerate the disintegration of PDP.

That all’s not right with the PDP, which has been hit by desertions, became evident during the campaign when Muzaffar Hussain Baig, appointed patron of the party and a former MP, was conspicuous by his absence in the party’s campaign.

Political observers believe that Mufti's defeat could prove disastrous for her party which has already been facing existential crisis after its former ally Bharatiya Janata Party walked out of alliance on June 19, 2018.

The party faced rebellion within its ranks and as many as eight lawmakers left the 20-year-old political organisation.

PDP received its first set back with the exit of Tariq Hamid Karra from the party in 2016. Karra had earned the sobriquet of "giant slayer" after he defeated National Conference chief patron Dr Farooq Abdullah in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Karra's victory from Srinagar was a huge achievement for the PDP as the area had always remained a strong hold of National Conference. During the 2017 by-election, the seat, however, was again won by senior Abdullah though only a handful of the voters cast their votes.

"Over the past few months, PDP has been grappling with rebellion from every part--north, south, and central--of valley. The party's defeat particularly in Anantnag Lok Sabha elections may not only pave the way for some more dissident leaders to exit from the organisation but also chip away at the confidence of party leadership" said Dr Shahnawaz Mantoo, a political observer based in Kashmir.

He said that Mufti's victory is also important to boost the morale of her workers at gross-root level.

Pertinently, Mufti's home constituency Bijbehara recorded dismal polling of just 2.04% during the first leg of polling for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, which did nothing to boost her confidence.

To mend her relationship with the unhappy party leaders, Mufti in July 2018 divested her uncle Sartaj Madni of the post of party’s vice president. The move came when the sulking party members accused Mufti of providing plum positions to her relatives and friends. After former finance minister Haseeb Drabu and three lawmakers— Imran Raza Ansari, Abid Ansari and Abas Wani bade farewell to the party, PDP appointed senior party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig as patron of the party.

Before elevating Baig to a top position in the organisational structure, the rumour mills were rife with the news of his impending resignation.

Baig, a sitting Lok Sabha member from Baramulla constituency, did not contest the election this time. He was also not seen taking part in party's poll campaign during the recently concluded LS polls in the state which indicates that everything is still not well with PDP.

"PDP is going through a crucial phase. It is not as strong at the organisational level as it was before and for this reason party's win particularly Mufti's in this Lok Sabha election is very important,” Mantoo said.

He said her defeat may prove the proverbial "straw that breaks the camel's back" for PDP.

"…And if PDP is disintegrating, it could also impact the regional political balance in the state" he opined.

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