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16 MLAs by her side, Mehbooba Mufti attends Vajpayee’s last rites.

At least 16 MLAs accompanied PDP President Mehbooba Mufti to New Delhi on Friday to attend former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s last rites, at a time when she is battling rebellion by some legislators who have claimed that a “silent majority” from within the party was supporting them.

A source said the party leadership decided on late Thursday evening that all legislators would join Mehbooba to pay homage to Vajpayee at New Delhi.

Apart from 16 MLAs, five MLCs, chief spokesperson and youth president accompanied Mehbooba to bid adieu to Vajpayee. Among those who didn’t join the delegation included five rebel MLAs and legislators Abdul Haq Khan, AR Rather, Raja Manzoor, Haseeb Drabu and Basharat Bukhari, Asiea Naqash and Javed Mustafa Mir. The party has a total of 28 elected members and one nominated MLA in the Assembly.

A source said while Khan was working with senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh in connection with party’s preparations to defend Article 35A in the Supreme Court, Bukhari had family engagements.

“…members paid glowing tributes to former Prime Minister and termed him great visionary who by virtue of his statesmanship took several remarkable and historic measures for Kashmir and laid foundation of result oriented Indo-Pak friendship that ushered new era of peace in the state,” said a statement issued by the party.

Enumerating various CBMs which were taken by Vajpayee on Kashmir, the party said he did “everything that could have soothed blighted hearts in Kashmir and helped in making healing touch and several peace initiatives undertook by PDP a success back in 2002”.

The MLC Firdous Tak, who was part of delegation, said the visit to Delhi was aimed at paying homage to a “friend and sympathiser” of Kashmir and the only Prime Minister who “won credibility” in the Valley.

“Those who have opposed the party have already gone public. All other legislators and leaders stand behind Mehbooba Ji. The message was already loud and clear on the foundation day ceremony, both in Kashmir and Jammu,” said Tak.

On party’s foundation on July 28, while 28 party legislators including MLAs and MLCs, three MPs and senior party members had attended the program, seven rebel legislators had stayed away.

During a joint press conference here last month, the rebels led by former minister and MLA Imran Raza Ansari had claimed that a silent majority of party legislators supported them and favored forming a new government.

One of the rebel legislators termed Mehbooba’s visit along with the MLAs as an “attempt to audaciously create a political opportunity out of bereavement”.

“It is a first of its kind and marks a new low in Kashmiri politics. Never before has any Kashmiri leader paraded MLAs for a floor test at an event meant for paying tributes to a departed soul. The irony is that self declared floor test ended in a self goal. Out of 29 MLAs, 14 volunteered for it,” the rebel MLA said.

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