Will Controversies Snatch Victory Away From The PDP?

10 November 2014
Firstpost
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: The winds of 'change' had steered the boat of the People Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party had won all the three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir Valley, riding on anti-incumbency faced by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's National Conference, despite his populist measures before the election. It was touted as the semi-final for the countdown to assembly elections. With the winning momentum on its side, the PDP looked set to repeat its general election performance. However, it has dropped the ball somewhere and is no more is an unassailable position. The devastating September flood which wreaked havoc across the Kashmir valley has not only ruined the prospects of the ruling NC, it seems to have hit the PDP as well. Sitting in the opposition, the party faced charges of 'not doing enough' to provide succor to the people affected by the deluge. Now, a series of controversies has put the party in an embarrassing situation. Coming weeks before the assembly election, it might prove disastrous for the party. Last week, Special CBI judge LK Gaur sentenced the party's general secretary and former minister, Dilawar Mir, to three years of imprisonment for wrongful release of Rs 30 lakh and contract for sale of urea to his firm by public sector National Fertilizers Limited in 1993-1996. The CBI judge also imposed a fine of Rs 3.21 crore on Mir. Mir, a party candidate from Rafiabad assembly constituency in north Kashmir's Baramulla district said, 'The court verdict will have no bearing upon my candidature. I will contest the upcoming assembly elections. Both the National Conference and the BJP have started twisting the facts about court decision and are spreading rumors against me.' Chief minister Omar Abdullah Saturday said: 'PDP had evolved as an amalgam of swindlers of all colors and shapes and the conviction of PDP general secretary by a CBI court in a case of graft yesterday showcases PDP's true character and goal in politics.' Two days before the verdict in Mir case came, PDP was put in a tight spot by a former senior superintendent of Jammu Kashmir Police and one of the most known faces of counter-insurgency grid in the region, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, when he allegedly made a threatening phone call to a newspaper editor which had carried a story about Bukhari. A press statement issued by the PDP last week said that 'senior leader' Ashiq Bukhari along with the party patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and other leaders had addressed an election rally in Kupwara. The story of Bukhari's behind-the-curtain inclusion in PDP, along with his tainted past, was reported by news portal, Authint Mail, and Kashmir Reader, a local newspaper. On the next day, Showkat Motta, the editor of Kashmir Reader, got a threatening phone call from Bukhari who allegedly made reproachful remarks, blatantly asking Motta, among many other things, 'Did I kill any of your relative?' The threat was widely condemned in Kashmir with Kashmir Journalists Corps appealing the home minister of India, Rajnath Singh, Director General of Jammu Kashmir Police, K Rajendra Kumar and Press Council of India chairman, Markandey Katju, to initiate action against Bukhari. Former BBC journalist, Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, who is now the media advisor of the PDP, said, 'He (Bukhari) has not joined the party formally. He attended and addressed the rally. He is a well-wisher of the party and is welcome to join.' National Conference general secretary, Mustafa Kamal, says there is nothing wrong if anyone, be it policemen or bureaucrat, join any political party, 'It is understandable why PDP is shying away from admitting it and why they hide Ashiq Bukhari's inclusion into their fold. It is because they fear public wrath in upcoming elections. Bukhari has a tainted human rights record as a police official,' Kamal said. 'When our party's activist, Haji Yusuf, died, he was in the custody of former IGP, Raja Ajaz Ali. At that time, Mufti Sayeed had said that he was a killer of Yusuf and later he joined the PDP. If he was killer, then how can he be the party's candidate for Uri?' These are just some of the recent issues that have clouded the prospects of PDP in the upcoming elections. Early this year, the man who could change the fortunes of the party in the old city of Srinagar, Khursheed Alam, was imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh. In June, J&K's Power Development Department caught his Baba Reshi Flour Mills stealing power. Alam later submitted an affidavit and paid a fine of Rs 10 lakh for power pilferage at his flour mill located in Narbal area on the outskirts of Srinagar. According to Kamal, another former bureaucrat, BA Runyal, who joined PDP in June has number of corruption cases against him. 'Go and check the records. You will find a number of cases against Runyal. This has become a party of scamsters and power thieves,' he said. PDP has used the slogan of 'change' in all its previous election campaigns to make inroads into the Kashmir's political arena and emerged as the largest opposition party with more seats in the state legislature than the ruling National Conference. The winds of change are blowing again in Kashmir, but this time they are certainly not helping the boat of PDP to float.