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Posted at: Mar 14, 2018, 12:49 AM; last updated: Mar 14, 2018, 12:49 AM (IST)

Alliance architect’s exit

Mehbooba reasserts Kashmir-exclusive approach
Alliance architect’s exit

The sacking of the urbane and sophisticated J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu for his remarks that “Kashmir is not a political problem” is Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s firm message that she upholds her party’s original agenda of  Kashmir being a political issue at a higher level than tolerating the chief troubleshooter of the BJP-PDP alliance. Drabu’s proximity with the BJP, combined with his speech where he underscored the need to address social issues instead of “barking at the wrong tree”, became his undoing.  Mehbooba must have felt that such utterances from her aides, if allowed to go unpunished, would challenge her basic theme of politics. She is a proponent of a political solution through internal dialogue, as also addressing the external dimension by taking Pakistan on board on the Kashmir issue.  

Mehbooba’s ally, the BJP, is uncomfortable with such suggestions. The constant din over scrapping Article 370, that grants special status to J&K, and other pinpricks had already weakened her political standing. Her political adversaries — the National Conference and some elements within the Hurriyat Conference — had been taunting her for working under the dictates of the RSS. Had Mehbooba ignored Drabu’s views, she would have been accused of backpedalling on political issues which have been the bedrock of the unrest in Kashmir. This was evident when the NC and Hurriyat Conference immediately began crying foul over Drabu’s remarks even as the Chief Minister was yet to turf him out from the ministry.

The PDP clearly wants to firmly anchor itself in Kashmir-Muslim centric politics. This was apparent from the haste with which Drabu was ousted — within 24 hours — without waiting for him to withdraw his remarks. Mehbooba is already indicating to the Centre that she cannot be expected to behave differently from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) when it comes to the special status category for her state. Since the TDP has quit the NDA after being stonewalled on special category status, Mehbooba is under challenge not to give the impression that she would tolerate any dilution in J&K’s demand for similar status.

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