To form an alliance with BJP was a risky decision still he opted for it with national perspective. Only a seasonsed politician Mufti sahab could do that.
I got a chance to meet Mufti Mohammad Sayeed around three months back. He wanted to discuss the critical issue of rehabilitation of Kashmiri pundits. He came up with an interesting observation. He said, “I don’t know why Padit Nehru let this happen. It is a fact that Sheikh Abdulla turned his antagonism toward the Maharaja into anti-Jammu feeling. Kashmir is not yet come of that mindset, which has hampered the Kashmiri interests till date. The trust deficit created between the two regions is not bridged, in fact, it is increasing day by day.” He further added that it is my life mission to bridge the psychological gap between Jammu, Ladakh and Kahsmir. It was a pleasant surprise for me. Mufti Sahab was certainly travelled a lot of ground since the time I know him for the last six decades. Once he was part of the politics in which Kashmiri means only Kashmir Sunni and even Shias were not permitted to carry Tajia procession. He was now talking like a pragmatic politician. His ability to distance himself from fundamentalism, regionalism and political rigidity separates him from the other Kashmiri politicians. Mufti Sayeed’s party is still considered as by and large a party of the South Kashmir and with almost no presence in Jammu. Still, the rare quality of identifying commonality and continuity in different social, intellectual and religious traditions was a significant trait of his personality. The day he entered politics, he realised that he is an alien in the Kashmiri politics and it is difficult to for him to enter the family coterie of Sheikh Abdulla. He decided to occupy the oposition space. In those days, besides National Conference, no political party was allowed to take roots in the state. Though Congress was there for the name sake, Mufti Sahab had no option but to use it as a launching pad. Incidentally, a phase of confrontationist politics between Nehru and Shekh Abdulla had begun and Mufti Sahab naturally acquired the position of opposition leader. He also picked up the right issue of political corruption. Those were the days when all the details of ‘misappropriated’ wealth of Sheikh Abdulla and his confidants were recorded in a red diary. This became the basis for Mufti’s fight against political corruption. Therefore, Mufti Sayeed was a naturally emerged as an alternative leader to Abdulla family, which he carried through successfully till his last breathe.
Usually, he becoming the Home Minister of Bharat is considered as his biggest achievement, which also became a hurdle in his political career. The kidnapping episode of his daughter Rubaiya became a point of contetion for him. Finally, he reached to the conclusion that national politics is not in his interest. He had very were little options in the valley. As Congress was never a popular party among Kashmiris, he decided to find a new path. Terrorism had dispersed the Kashmiri politics. Separatism had become the means of opposition. Still, there was a big chunk of society which wanted to oppose without opting the violent means. Mufti Sahab opted for an adventurous path; he tried to get all such elements together and asked them to express their voice through democratic means. His image of anti-National Conference leader helped him a lot in this endeavour. Despite the allegations of a soft-separatist leader, he continued his efforts to bring youths on the path of mainstream politics.
His decision to form a coalition government with the BJP is also an adventurous one, which only a seasoned politician can dare. Mufti Sahab opted for this alliance for two reasons. He was well aware that in the given mandate, no other alliance would be durable. Political instability was neither beneficial for Kashmir nor for the PDP. National Conference had still maintained its stronghold in the valley. To increase the base of PDP, Mufti Sayeed wanted some time. To be in power is the best way to increase your base which Mufti Sahab grabbed pragmatically. Another important reason for this alliance was his realisation that the change that has taken place at the national level is not a momentary but a long-term. Therefore, the sudden and sad demise of Mufti Sayeed on January 7, 2016 is not just death of a leader. It will be a big challenge for both Mehbooba Mufti and the BJP to carry forward his agenda of regional consensus building as the threats to this process are not only from outside but also within.
Jawaharlal Kaul (The writer is an eminent journalist and President of J&K Study Centre.)