Battling rebellion within her party, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti has started closed door meetings with senior party functionaries and legislators. This is second such exercise in less than two weeks, after a few party lawmakers openly voiced their dissent.
Two days ago, Mehbooba met with zonal and district presidents, senior members and legislators from central Kashmir. On Wednesday she interacted with members from southern Kashmir, said party’s chief spokesperson Muhammad Rafi Mir.
A source said except for rebel MLA Abdul Majid Padder, and Haseeb Drabu who has been out of the state for a long time now, all MLAs from southern districts attended today’s meeting.
Mehbooba will be meeting party members from northern areas on Friday.
“It is an outreach program aimed to rejuvenate the party at the grassroots level and get feedback from our members about performance of our last government and how much could we achieve,” said Mir.
This “program” comes barely 10 days after Mehbooba held closed door meetings with legislators, after six of her members led by former minister and Shia leader Imran Raza Ansari, openly revolted against her for “promoting family raj” within the party.
Many MLAs including the rebels had, however, stayed away from the meeting.
A senior party leader talked about the “difficult times” the party was passing through.
“These meetings are aimed at reconciliation,” said the party leader.
One of former ministers who met Mehbooba acknowledged that concerns raised by dissenters were “genuine” and even shared by members who have pledged unconditional support to the leadership.
“This situation was brewing for a long time but Mehbooba ji preferred to look the other way and remained disconnected from the ground,” the former minister said.
“These are testing times but we are optimistic that this phase will pass.”
Meanwhile, the party is yet to take decision on the fate of the six rebel legislators though it sacked Yasir Reshi, rebel MLC, from the post of district president Bandipora last week.
“Any action against the (rebel) members will follow once the issue reaches the party’s disciplinary committee. That stage hasn’t come yet,” said a party leader.
In a statement issued after today’s meeting, Mehbooba stressed upon the need to strengthen the party at the grassroots level. She said the party owes its emergence to “avowed objectives of peace and reconciliation and it cannot commit a sin to defeat the mission of its patron or undermine sacrifices of its people and party workers by compromising on the basic agenda”.
“There is a dire need that everyone has to put earnest and sincere efforts to strengthen the party and make it a more vibrant force that can fight for peoples’ rights with an impeccable will and remain at the forefront to end their predicament,” she said in the statement, stressing upon the need to foil “vicious designs of vested interests who are hell bent on weakening PDP”.
Stating that her party has been at the forefront pitching for “peace, tranquility and dignified life” for people of J&K, Mehbooba said it has now “dawned upon all across political spectrum of the country and the state as well that PDP shall never barter peoples aspirations for power”.
According to the statement, the party leaders who spoke on the occasion provided “valuable suggestions” for reaching out to people for strengthening the party while asserting that they “stand by decisions of party leadership and assured full support to party president in good as well as bad times”.