Why the Resignation of the PDP's Srinagar MP is a Big Deal

Karra’s decision may become a rallying point for the dissenting voices within the PDP, putting the already beleaguered government in more trouble.

File photo of Mehbooba Mufti with Haseeb Drabu (L) and Tariq Hamid Karra (R) in Srinagar. Credit: PTI

File photo of Mehbooba Mufti with Haseeb Drabu (L) and Tariq Hamid Karra (R) in Srinagar. Credit: PTI

Srinagar: In a big jolt to the Mehbooba Mufti-led ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which is under fire for its handling of situation in Kashmir, founding members and sitting MP Tariq Hamid Karra resigned from party and parliament on Thursday, accusing the PDP of surrendering its ideals for power and acting as a “facilitator for designs” of the RSS – the ideological mentor of the BJP – in the state.

Karra, who was against the party’s alliance with the BJP from the outset, alleged that the state government had resorted to brutalities much worse than the Nazis in the Valley, where at least 84 civilian have been killed and over 11000 persons injured in action by forces post the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in south Kashmir on July 8 this year.

“My conscience cannot take it anymore…the party has created new records of spilling Kashmir blood,” Karra said at a press conference here on a day when another youth from south Kashmir succumbed to bullet injuries at a hospital.

“As a mark of protest on moral grounds against the brutal policies of the BJP at the Centre and the state government’s complete sellout and surrender before them I have decided to disassociate myself from the primary membership of the PDP and from the membership of parliament.”

Karra’s resignation comes at a time when the state government led by chief minister Mehbooba is facing severe criticism for the manner in which it has handled the ongoing crisis in the Valley and for failing to stop the spate of killings over the past 69 days.

“This resignation is a huge setback to the PDP and it clearly shows that there are people within the party who are uncomfortable with the government’s policies and what is happening on the ground,” political commentator Noor Muhammad Baba told The Wire.

‘From facilitator to collaborators’

Blaming the party’s “unnatural” alliance with the BJP for the ongoing unrest, Karra said he had warned former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba about its “repercussions and dangerous consequences,” adding that the “unsigned loosely knit” agenda of alliance – the roadmap agreed to by the PDP and BJP to govern the state – was cobbled with the diametrically opposite RSS-driven BJP, because of which the “seeds of deceit, discontent and betrayal got sown in hearts and minds of the people”.

In a seven-page hard hitting statement to the media spelling out the reasons for his decision, Karra said the PDP had been reduced from “facilitator to collaborators,” while also attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “hand-twisting attitude and imperialistic methods” towards Kashmir and for “pushing the country towards Hinduisation and converting the highly publicized Incredible India into Intolerant India”.

Karra also listed some controversies – challenge to J&K’s special status; beef ban controversy; Dadri lynching; “rabid” statements by BJP members, including Sakshi Maharaj, Sadvi Niranjan Jyoti and Sadhvi Prachvi; and the recent filing of a PIL in the Supreme Court calling for a ban on the Muslim ritual of animal sacrifice on Eid – that according to him have created fear among Muslims about the RSS-governed BJP and has led to anger against the PDP for the facilitation provided to its alliance partner.

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir, in Srinagar September 13, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Taqir Hamid Karra resigned from the PDP and parliament over the party’s handling of the situation in Kashmir. Credit: REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Who is Karra?

Hailing from Batamaloo, Karra served as the first general secretary of the PDP when it was launched in 1999 with Sayeed as party president, and Mehbooba and Muzaffar Hussain Baig (MP from north Kashmir) as vice presidents.

But it was five years later in the 2004 byelection that Karra formally started his political journey from Srinagar’s Batmaloo constituency, which had fallen vacant following the death of National Conference’s Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah.

As the years passed, Karra, a law graduate, rose through the ranks to become a close confidante of Sayeed and emerged as the party’s face in Srinagar. He however grew in stature during his tenure as the finance minister under Sayeed in the PDP-Congress coalition government during 2002-08. This was when Karra vociferously advocated the dual currency concept between the divided parts of Kashmir as part of a roadmap to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Following his defeat in the 2008 assembly election, Karra’s space within the PDP shrunk. But that changed in 2014 when he defeated National Conference stalwart Farooq Abdullah from the Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha constituency to enter parliament – the first time the PDP won the seat in its short history.

The fame was short-lived, however, as post the 2014 assembly elections in J&K, Karra was completely sidelined in the party’s decisionmaking at a time when many new faces were queuing up to pledge their support to the PDP.

But it was only after PDP decided to enter into an alliance with the BJP that the differences between the Muftis and Karra (who was at the time of his resignation a member of the standing committee on water resources and member of the consultative committee at the home affairs ministry), came to the fore to the extent that he stayed away from Modi’s rally in Srinagar on November 7, 2015 when Sayeed was chief minister and even boycotted Mehbooba’s coronation ceremony in April this year.

PDP hits back

Hours after Karra made his decision to resign public, the PDP hit back at him saying he was the one who had “strongly advocated” an alliance with the BJP and proposed Mehbooba’s name as leader of the party and the chief ministerial candidate.

Karra had attended the party’s meeting on March 24 in which Mehbooba was elected as the party’s legislature leader, which paved way for her anointment as chief minister. He had even congratulated Mehbooba for her new role and hoped that the PDP-BJP alliance under her would “respect the sentiments of people and address their issues.”

“It is unfortunate that Tariq Sahib has chosen to label unfounded allegations,” said PDP general secretary Nizam-ud-Din Bhat.

Accusing him of not speaking even once in parliament during his over two-year tenure, Bhat said Karra had been elected by the voters on the mandate of the PDP to channelise their sentiments and take them to the highest forum of democracy – the parliament.

Bhat went on to say that Karra’s engagement with the different political parties of the country would have been more “fruitful, eventful and dignified” for the people of Kashmir rather than indulging in “rabble rousing” at the local level.

Growing dissent

On September 9, Baig, who represents north Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency in the Lok Sabha, stoked controversy when he said Mehbooba should resign as chief minister if she feels she cannot control the situation on the ground, even as he openly accused the PDP-BJP government of failing to deliver on its “agenda of alliance”.

“We have not been able to deliver according to the agenda of governance. But I have every hope that the alliance will deliver,” Baig had said. “In case it fails to deliver, the government should resign”.

The PDP’s sole MP now – Mehbooba resigned from south Kashmir parliament seat in April this year to enter state assembly – Baig had admitted that the party cadres were deeply disappointed with the functioning of the government.

Another senior leader of the party from south Kashmir, which was considered to be stronghold of the party, acknowledged that party’s image has been “badly dented” due to the “present situation” in the Valley.

“We emerged as a strong political force in 2014 Assembly elections after years of hard work and support of people who saw a hope in the PDP. Today, people are getting killed and losing their eyes to pellets. We have to think of a way out of this,” said the leader, who did not want to be named.

The instant worry for the party will be that Karra’s decision may become a rallying point for the dissenting voices within the PDP, putting the already beleaguered government in more trouble.

“I am leaving it to the conscience of all other members of Parliament and members of both Houses of J&K assembly, to decide whether they would like to side with their helpless people or let this bloodshed perpetuated by the RSS-driven BJP and facilitated by PDP to continue,” Karra said as he appealed to his former party colleagues and opposition members to follow his example.

The PDP leader said there were voices within the party who were critical of the government’s handling of the situation in Kashmir. Will they find a leader in Karra? “The situation in Kashmir is fast slipping out of our hands. His (Karra’s) resignation was expected and the party was aware of it. We have to act fast otherwise it may be too late,” he said.

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