Has the decision by senior PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Tariq Karra to quit to protest Kashmir civilian killings set the cat among the pigeons in the ruling party camp? Will others follow in his footsteps, worsening the crisis that has engulfed the PDP-BJP government over the last two months?
These question are now being intensely debated in Kashmir’s political circles.
Karra, one of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), blamed both Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her late father, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, for aligning with “the BJP that is run by the fascist RSS”.
Announcing his decision to quit the party as well as Parliament, Karra made an appeal to all other PDP leaders and legislators to “decide whether they want to co-exist among their people or serve as collaborators of the forces in power in India”.
Karra, the face in urban Srinagar of the PDP that has its known bastion in rural south Kashmir, echoed veteran separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s appeal made to mainstream politicians of Kashmir.
In his statement, Karra said he had been living under tremendous stress and the deaths of the civilians in protests during the ongoing cycle of violence had made things unbearable for him, hence he decided to quit.
The timing of his announcement is ominous. The PDP-BJP coalition government is battling unprecedented unrest in which the separatists are calling the shots. The government is already under strain amid speculations that it is only a matter of time when Governor’s Rule will imposed in the troubled state.
Mehbooba has come under sharp criticism for failing to control the violent unrest that has left 86 civilians and three policemen dead so far. More than 12,000 civilians and security forces have been injured. Some 100 injured civilians hit by dangerous pellets face the prospect of permanent blindness.
In an alarming situation like this, Karra may have indeed dealt a severe jolt to Mehbooba, who also heads the PDP, and her political capital in the state.
PDP insiders told IANS here that Karra has support of some other leaders and MLAs within the party who are equally unhappy with Mehbooba and her decision to continue the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While some of the disgruntled leaders say they had always opposed joining the right-wing BJP, loyalists of Mehbooba claim the discontent owes itself to the failure of the dissidents to get ministerial berths.
Whatever the reasons, Karra’s ruffling of feathers finally boils down to two things.
Will Karra’s move pose an immediate threat to the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir? May be. But only if more PDP leaders follow him.
Is it the beginning of the formation of a third front that could in future become another regional force committed to preserve the uniqueness of Kashmir within the union of India?
The idea of a third front as an alternative to both the PDP and the National Conference has been doing the rounds in the political circles of Kashmir for a long time.
The PDP-BJP coalition, as of now, has the support of 56 MLAs in the 87-member state assembly. These including 28 PDP, 25 BJP, two from Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference and an independent.
But a senior PDP leader known to be a Mehbooba Mufti loyalist ruled out any threat to the coalition government.
“At best Karra could garner support of two to three MLAs, who also we are told would not resign to favour him. The unfortunate decision has amounted to back-stabbing because he could have waited for things to return to normal if he had waited so far for two years with pangs of conscience,” the leader told IANS, requesting anonymity because the PDP has asked its leaders not to speak to the media.