Mehbooba Mufti to address major rally on PDP foundation day to boost cadre
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti will address a major rally on its 20th foundation day in Srinagar on Sunday (July 28) in an attempt to boost the confidence of party workers after its drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections and a spate of desertions over the past year.
The PDP, which had won 28 seats in 2014 assembly elections, is at its most vulnerable point following the resignation of Mehbooba Mufti as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister last year in June after its coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew support from the government. Since then, nine prominent leaders and former legislators have left the party, the latest being one of the party founders and three-time legislator, Khalil Bandh who joined the rival National Conference on Sunday.
Though there is a level of weariness among some of the PDP leaders, the party has started mobilizing its cadres to make the convention at Sher-i-Kashmir Park in Srinagar a success.
“We are celebrating our raising day and there will be a convention where workers as well as leaders will be there. What can be said about those who left? But those who are still in the party will be present,” said senior PDP leader Abdual Rehman Veeri.
Another PDP leader said on condition of anonymity that they were targeting a turnout of some 8000-10,000 people but the ‘restrictions on highway owing to the Amarnath yatra will be a hindrance in their transport’.
“We are talking to the administration but they are saying that the traffic routine can’t change. We will still be targeting a gathering of some 2000-3000 people,” he said.
“The message will be clear that PDP is still strong. Individuals leaving the party won’t make any difference,” said the leader.
Following the PDP’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir, many attributed the loss to party’s coalition with its ideologically opposite partner BJP. Rival National Conference president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah led his party’s charge winning all three seats in Kashmir valley in a complete reversal of its performance in 2014.
Khalil Bandh was the fifth former senior minister to quit the PDP. Others include Altaf Bukhari, Haseeb Drabu as well as Imran Ansari and his brother Abid Ansari. The Ansaris have joined Sajad Lone’s Peoples’ Conference.
Fearing a cascading effect after Bandh’s resignation, Mehbooba Mufti dissolved the political affairs committee (PAC) of the party on Saturday.
However the PDP loyalists are still hopeful of a comeback.
“PDP is a school of thought and it is still relevant as an ideology. It is true that we are facing a challenge but we will fight it out,” said PDP youth president Waheed Para.
The party had a meteoritic rise after late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed left Congress to form the PDP in 1999. The party’s public outreach revolved around its demand for the state’s ‘self-rule’ and a dialogue process with separatist groups, militants and Pakistan which found a lot of traction among the valley residents.
“After the Lok Sabha results, there is a realisation of dis-empowerment among people especially in south Kashmir. Mehbooba would talk about the issues of people. People were angry but they are also feeling PDP’s absence in Parliament which would often talk about the core problem there,” said another PDP leader on condition of anonymity.