J&K: Haseeb Drabu loses ministry after comments in Delhi

A seemingly casual comment at a Delhi seminar that Kashmir was not a ‘political’ issue has cost Haseeb Drabu, the Jammu & Kashmir finance minister, his place in the ministry

Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

People’s Democratic Party minister Haseeb Drabu was on Monday dropped from the PDP-BJP ministry in Jammu and Kashmir over his comment that Kashmir is not a ‘political’ issue but that Kashmir is a society with serious social issues. Drabu is perceived to be close to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP leader Ram Madhav.

Drabu had made the remark at an event, ‘Kashmir: The Way Forward’, organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry at New Delhi on March 9. It had triggered a political storm in Kashmir Valley.

“It (J&K) is not a political issue as far as I can see. They have been barking up the wrong tree for the last 50 or 70 years by talking about the politics of it, that the political situation has never improved. We seriously need to look at in terms of how it is a society that is in search of itself.”

Watch a video of Drabu making the comments at the event below:

PDP on Sunday had sought an explanation from Drabu for making a statement “detrimental to the party’s interests”. PDP’s vice president Mohammad Sartaj Madni asked him to retract the statement immediately if it had been wrongly reported in the media.

PDP reiterated that it recognised Kashmir as a political issue, claiming that it had pursued for its resolution through reconciliation and dialogue. Haseeb Drabu’s remark, it said, negated the party’s core ideology of self-rule.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik on Sunday termed Drabu’s statement as an “ample specimen of a sold-out mentality.

Recalling a meeting from 1996, Malik alleged: “Drabu praised our efforts for liberation of Jammu Kashmir from illegal occupation of India. But after a few years Drabu was awarded with the chairmanship of Jammu and Kashmir Bank. He renounced the resistance movement for his petty selfish gain and switched over to the other side of the divide and joined the Indian political system.”

Sacking indicative of growing PDP-BJP rift

The sacking is seen as a sign of the growing gulf between coalition partners PDP and BJP. Ministers from both parties have been openly voicing their differences on several issues. It also comes at a time when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has been urging the Modi government to resume talks with Pakistan to ensure peace in J&K .

It is widely believed that Drabu and senior journalist Barkha Dutt played an important role in stitching together the PDP and BJP alliance. Drabu was the PDP's pointsman who worked out the draft of the agenda of alliance with the BJP after the 2014 assembly elections. After signing the agenda of alliance, the PDP-BJP came to power in the state.

During his stay in government guest houses in New Delhi, according to sources, Drabu’s meals would often come from Jaitley’s house.

Drabu started his career with the Planning Commission of India in 1990. He then worked as a consultant to the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister and Tenth Finance Commission before becoming an editor at Business Standard. He has also served as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank.

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Published: 12 Mar 2018, 7:47 PM