January 2016 News

Mufti's Death Reveals The Vulnerabilities Of The PDP

8 January 2016
Kashmir Observer

Srinagar: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) emerged as a mainstream political force in the late nineties. The party was floated and formed by the gerontocratic politician, Mufti Mohammed Sayyed who passed away on the 7th of January, 2016. All political parties (the PDP being no exception) need a unifying glue to hold together and sustain them. This can either be ideology and its concomitant, ideological commitment, a self transcending goal or motivation, group solidarity or a leader to whom all other party members bend their ego and who can be the solvent of differences. If the PDP is weighed on each of these scales, it emerges that it falls short on all scales other than that of the leadership of Mufti Sayyed. The party does not have a vibrant ideology to which all-leaders and workers- can subsume their egos and interests. Its 'self rule' theory is essentially a theory; not an ideology. This is more rhetorical than substantive. Even if the ' self rule' idea-theory carried weight beyond rhetoric, it is too elitist to carry traction with the masses and party workers. In terms of group dynamic(s), that could be a potential glue to hold the party together, the PDP is too young to have forged a deep and enduring camaraderie amongst all its party members and cadre. This leaves the leader option. There may be no consensus and unanimity in figure of Mufti Sayyed and his politics; a whole host of ideas and assessments swirl and twirl about him but in terms of his party, he did hold a stature and command respect within the party fold. Being crafty and an astute politician, he among other things kept intra party conflict in check. Now that he is no more, what bodes for the PDP? It is difficult to foretell the future of a political party that is young and operates in a milieu of conflict. The PDP rose on the platform of 'soft separatism' wherein it snatched or tried to snatch space of separatists. It created a niche and space for itself through this. But then timing was key here. The PDP was launched and formed when militancy was ebbing in Kashmir but sentiment for separatism remained. This was essentially a time of transition. An older cohort of separatists was transitioning from militancy to politics and a new generation of Kashmiris was incubating. While the PDP may or may not have received some degree of support and backing from certain separatist quarters , it did not, according to reports and theories floating in the media , elicit opprobrium from some of these quarters. The PDP also capitalized on the rural-urban fault line(s) in Kashmir. Its existence then became a reality and gradually it became a force to contend with. While the party's 'self rule' line was largely rhetorical, it , however, sought to cannibalize and capitalize on 'good governance' as the antidote to unique problems that Kashmir posed. The theme of good governance became more salient after the PDP entered into an alliance with the Hindu far right party, the BJP, to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir. This did not sit well with Kashmir. To cap this initial discontent, the PDP-BJP coalition government's governance record has not been salutary. Anti incumbency against the regime has already set in. All this is now capped by the death of its founder leader. How, the question is, will the party fare henceforth? It is difficult to foretell the future of a political party in a conflict zone. However, few pointers suggest that it may not be an easy ride for the party after the death of Mufti Sayyed. Given that there is no leader who can be the solvent of party leaders, members and cadres, conflicts, egos and interests, there is the likelihood of the emergence of power centers within the party. This can potentially lead to intra party intrigues and machinations and power plays for control of the party. Moreover, contemporary Kashmir is a rather different Kashmir in terms of militancy. The current generation of militants is ideologically more committed, more educated and aware. They may not be prone or open to suasion. The consequences can be felt in the domain of 'soft separatism' which will henceforth yield diminishing if not zero returns. The cumulative effect of developments and themes elaborated in this analysis leaves the PDP with very little room for maneuver. If the Party is to stay relevant for the long term, it may have to reinvent itself and align itself vigorously with the sentiments of the people. That is, it will need to shed association with the Centre and be a peoples' party in the real sense of the term. This, however, may not be possible. The political history of Kashmir's post 1947 politics demonstrates that any party or force that falls foul of the Centre has its days numbered. The PDP then will have to play a balancing act. How the party maintains intra party coherence and discipline and whether it will genuinely reflect and articulate peoples' aspirations or if it chooses to play a balancing act will, in the final analysis determine the PDP's longevity as a coherent mainstream political force or even its survival.