Sartaj Madni Resigns from PDP

Sartaj Madni and Mehbooba Mufti during PDP’s foundation day in Srinagar last year. Image courtesy: Facebook/PDP

Srinagar: After the ‘rebel group’ within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) created a storm on Friday by boycotting a crucial meet, Mehbooba Mufti is desperately trying to set her house in order.

“It is my decision and I have thought over it for some time,” Madni said on Monday morning. “I submitted my resignation in the interest of the party and to strengthen the party. Some people raised objections over my position and I think it is better for the larger good for me to step down.”The PDP chief is trying to stop her party, which is staring at an imminent split, from further disintegration. Mehbooba’s maternal uncle and PDP vice-president Sartaj Madni put in his papers on Monday. Madni was the party’s second-in-command and most powerful after Mehbooba.

Madni’s resignation came days ahead of the party’s foundation day, which is being observed on 28 July. The party is planning a grand show and will hold a public rally at Srinagar. A senior party leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Madni was asked to resign by Mehbooba after she met her leaders from both south, central and north Kashmir. The decision was taken on Saturday after Mehbooba met another set of leaders at her Gupkar residence.

“It is perhaps the feedback of the elected representatives of the party that Mehbooba asked him (Madni) to resign,” the leader said.

Madni, a resident of Nowpora-Akhran in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, lost an election to Congress’ Mohammad Amin Bhat in 2014. Madni has been associated with the PDP since its inception. He was a small-time contractor before joining the party. He has been elected as MLA twice from Devsar constituency of Kulgam and served as deputy speaker in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. However, according to party insiders, Mehbooba’s father and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed disliked Madni.

Madni’s political career ended after he lost the 2014 election, but after Sayeed’s passing, Mehbooba—having a soft corner for her uncle—brought him center-stage. A scandal broke out last year after his son Syed Aroot Madni, 37, was appointed as an executive officer in the autonomous Khadi Village and Industries Board (KVIB), which prompted candidates who were not selected to file an RTI seeking their marks in the written test and interview.

The resignation, however, will do little to calm the turbulence in the PDP, which has been hit by an internal feud after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suddenly pulled out of the coalition government. Some party lawmakers, who recently met Mehbooba at her residence, according to sources, complained  Madni was influencing decision making in the government for vested interests.

Mehbooba, 59, rebuilt her party from scratch after it was founded in late 1990s by her father. She’d surface at the homes of militants killed by forces and victims of human rights violations and express solidarity with their kin to create an emotional vote-bank for her party.

During the 2014 election, Mehbooba campaigned heavily against the BJP, telling voters in far-flung areas of Kashmir to stop the BJP from making inroads by voting for the PDP. Her father ended up allying with the same party after months of political negotiations and the two parties worked out ‘Agenda of the Alliance’ as governance framework but nothing came of it.

But the coalition, which was wobbly since its inception, exploded two weeks after New Delhi decided not to extend the non-initiation of combat operations. After the fall, many party MLAs started criticising Mehbooba, which set off rumours of a ‘third front’ emerging in Kashmir devoid of Muftis and Abdullahs.

The MLAs who criticised party leadership publicly for allowing “Mehbooba’s relatives and cronies to destroy the party” included Imran Raza Ansari, Mohammad Abbas, Javid Baig, Abid Raza Ansari, Majeed Paddar and two MLC’s Yasir Reshi and Saifuddin Bhat.

As one leader after another began quitting the party, Mehbooba pointed the finger at New Delhi and warned that the consequences would be very dangerous. She likened the situation to 1987 when the National Conference was declared the winner after elections were allegedly rigged.

“If Delhi tries to spoil the voting rights of people like it did in 1987, if it tries to create divisions and interfere like that, then more Salahuddins and Yasin Maliks will be born. If the PDP breaks, its outcome will be dangerous,” she said in Srinagar. Over a weekend interview to News18 Urdu, Mehbooba said many of her leaders felt they were being threatened with raids from the National Investigation Agency if they didn’t join the ‘rebel’ MLAs.

After his resignation, Reshi spoke against the party at a press conference in Srinagar: “We are the real PDP. Until and unless Mehbooba removes all her cronies and people who have not been chosen by public from positions of power, the resignation of Madni will do little to improve her situation.”

“It is a good step, although it came a little too late. He should have been sacked from the party and not just removed from the post of vice-president,” Reshi added.

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