After the recent detention of former chief ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under Public Safety Act (PSA, it is time for other leaders to decide whether they can wait long enough to allow the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to vanish from the political arena of Jammu and Kashmir.
Asked whether the NC would start its political activity in the Valley as the harsh winter nears its end, a senior party leader said, “How can genuine and credible political activity be started by us unless our top leaders, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Ali Muhammad Sagar are released”, said a senior leader of the NC.
Similar reaction was shown by a senior leader of the PDP when asked whether the party would resume normal political activity in the absence of Mehbooba Mufti.
Under the stringent PSA, a person can be detained without trial for two years and the authorities can invoke the Act against persons inimical to peace and security in the union territory.
Interestingly, the Act was passed during the rule of NC founder, late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1978 and it was originally intended to be used against timber smugglers.
Buub Khan of north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district was the first person to be detained under the Act for being involved in timber smuggling in 1978.
It was during the NC, PDP and coalition governments by the two parties with the Congress that PSA came to be used against political adversaries.
Local offices of the NC and the PDP in different districts of the Valley seem to be hibernating while the party rank and file wait for the release of their top leaders.
Ironically, the decimation of the PDP that started when Mehbooba Mufti was the chief minister still continues as Mufti languishes in detention.
Encouragingly for the NC, there has so far been no flight of party men.
The writ of Dr Abdullah and his son, Omar runs in the party, but that is no guarantee that flight of party men can be checked for long.
“We have to address the basic problems of our followers. Their troubles cannot wait for long. For this, it is very important that we start our political activities despite the handicap of having our top leadership in detention”, said a senior NC leader on the condition that his name would not be revealed.
The fact that no senior or middle rung leader of the NC is prepared to attract the wrath of the Abdullahs clearly indicates that there is no evolving alternative to the Abdullahs so far.
In sharp contrast to this, the PDP seems to be overloaded by leaders who would willingly replace Mufti.
“The only thing that keeps other leaders from coming out in the public to replace Mehbooba Mufti is that they do not want to make her a political martyr of any kind”, said a dissident PDP leader who deserted the party even when Mufti was the chief minister.
Political activity by the rival parties of the NC and the PDP have already started with the BJP taking the lead in both the Valley and the Jammu region.
The Congress has also started holding meetings and mobilising its rank and file.
The writing on the wall is very clear for both the NC and the PDP. Will other leaders and party men allow these two parties to vanish because their top leadership is unlikely to be released soon?