After coalition break, PDP unlikely to loose its support base


Nineteen years after the PDP was founded by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and built by Mehbooba Mufti from the grassroots in 1999, the Kashmir valley-centric regional party is today facing an existential crisis.

When PDP, the largest single party with 28 seats in the 2015 assembly elections, forged an alliance with the BJP that had won 25 seats, Kashmiris were by and large, supportive of the move as the CM seat went to the Valley party. The PDP cadre, which has a strong component of Jamat-e-Islami, the pro-Pakistan socio-political organization whose armed offshoot is the Hizbul Mujahideen terror group, was especially exuberant. “Our hope was that BJP, like in its previous avatar under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with the huge mandate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi received, would initiate a political dialogue process with separatists and Pakistan to resolve the longstanding conflict,” a PDP member told.

The sudden strike by BJP after having relentlessly followed a tough security policy both in terms of retaliation for cross border firing and in acting against violent protestors has discomfited the PDP. The regional party finds itself accused of having been taken for a ride and does not have much to show its supporters by way of gains. Discontent, feel political sources, see dissensions emerge in the PDP and may even lead to desertions.
Opinion in Kashmir expected that the Modi government would immediately ameliorate the economic difficulties of the Valley which was still reeling under the effects of the 2014 floods. “The delay in the financial aid generated lot of resentment against the PDP during Mufti Sayeed’s first year as the chief minister of the coalition government,” a party worker said.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi took several initiatives to reach out to Pakistan, the government took a tougher stand against both Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists after the Gurdaspur and Pathankot cross-border terror attacks. “That led to further friction between the PDP and the BJP,” a supporter of the PDP said.

When Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter by security forces in 2016, “the PDP lost lot of ground in its bastion, south Kashmir, the hotbed of the new militancy that was born through the violent years of 2008 to 2010,” Shahnawaz, a PDP activist in Anantnag said. The entire valley erupted in protests and violence, with over 80 people killed in clashes and some even blinded by pellets, which further added to the growing anger against the PDP.

“The lynching of several Muslims over the suspicions of beef made BJP extremely unpopular in Kashmir too. By continuing its alliance with the BJP, the PDP lost my vote,” Ishrat, a student in Kulgam said.

The PDP’s base eroded further when the BJP not only refused to hold talks with separatists but instead sent NIA after them to crack down on terror-funding. “That hurt the PDP’s cadre and ground support quite badly. Jamat has been furious that the PDP completely surrendered before the BJP and destroyed separatist leadership,” a Jamat member in Pulwama said.

It is very unlikely that the Jamat will come to support the PDP if elections were to be held immediately, a party insider said. “Mehbooba’s brother Tasaduq Mufti was not able to go for the Anantnag bypoll because of the loss of base and outrage among its cadre. Besides, for the last three years, the general impression has been that the PDP is just a family party run by the Muftis and their close relatives,” he said

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