No political martyrdom in this resignation

Inside Story: Karra was already standing by exit door
TNN Bureau. Updated: 9/17/2016 3:44:22 PM

The separatist camp, keeping Kashmir on boil for over two months, is celebrating Tariq Hamid Karra’s announcement of resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party and the government but it is potentially a misplaced excitement for both sides.

Karra has made a smart move by claiming to have taken high moral ground on the continuous clampdown and death of over 80 young people in Kashmir since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in first week of July. At the face of it and on the basis of long essay type statement he read out to the Press, the resignation appears to be a genuine mark of protest. But if seen in the developments of last couple of years, it clearly emerged out that Karra’s resignation has more to do with his political-power ambitions than anything like political morality.

Claiming himself to be a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Karra lays his decision of resignation on the basic premise of PDP’s alliance with the Bhartiya Janta Party. He also attributes the current spate of street confrontation to the ‘unholy alliance’ between PDP and BJP which he says ‘triggered unrest’ right from the day one. Karra further claims that he was all along uncomfortable with the alliance and this ended into frustration that ultimately led to resignation. There couldn’t be any bigger concoction than this.

Tariq Hamid Karra, as all statements on record suggest, was an essential part of all core discussions within the top leadership level of PDP in the wake of hung verdict of 2014 assembly elections which forced the party to take a collective decision of aligning with BJP in view unavoidable historical, political and geographical factors reinforced by the mandate. Had PDP’s alliance with BJP triggered any sort of unrest in Kashmir the first fourteen months was a sufficient time to show any evidence. There is not a single opinion piece appearing in the Press or any protest in any corner of the Valley against PDP’s decision of forming government with BJP. With no such evidence, how could Karra build up a story such as this.

There is no denying the fact that Karra was one of the unhappiest persons within the PDP since 2014. His exit from the party due any moment but the current unrest appears to have come handy for walking out as hero of his own perceptions. In fact, for this unpleasant incident of resignation which shouldn’t have happened at such a political juncture, the PDP top leadership, particularly Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, have to share a part of the blame for not keeping Karra properly rehabilitated.


NO REWARDS FOR DELIVERING SRINAGAR

The story of Karra’s disillusionment goes back to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Much to the surprise of everyone, even within the PDP, Karra emerged as a giant killer by defeating the National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah in the Lok Sabha elections. Till then PDP’s hard work had yielded fortunes only in the rural Kashmir but Karra emerged as hero of urban consolidation, particularly for winning Central Kashmir Lok Sabha segment in which the separatist stronghold Srinagar district has the most constituencies.
Later in the year, a close relative of Karra’s, Asea Naqash emerged as one of the four PDP winners in the Assembly elections from Srinagar district. Karra’s wife, who was also in the fray, also won. But a hung verdict had posed a difficult challenge for the party. When the party sat down to reflect on the difficult mandate giving sweeping power to BJP in Jammu and fractured verdict to PDP in Kashmir, at least two persons emerged as strong votaries of party’s alliance with the BJP. This is a fact that initially, as everyone else, they were also bit reluctant. The duo was none other than Tariq Hamid Karra and Muzaffar Hussain Baig.

PDP had, at that time, five seats in the Parliament –three in Lok Sabha and two were about to make way to the Rajya Sabha. An alliance with BJP, ruling at the centre, could have meant the possibility of at least one of the five joining the Narendra Modi cabinet. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was reluctant to participate in Modi government as his idea of alliance bordered around reconciliation within and across Jammu and Kashmir rather than power bargains in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi. With any change in thought at a later stage, the choice would have to be made between Karra and Baig and this could have led to a potential crisis in the party.
Baig becoming Minister at the Centre would have upset Karra to a point of no return and vice versa. This would have meant imminent exit of one of the two from the party –and this is precisely what has happened this week. There is a long and plethoric list of other factors which have been frustrating Karra. He would have wanted Asea Naqash to be a Cabinet Minister but she was given a junior berth. He had also wanted his wife, who lost election in Srinagar as former trade union leader Khursheed Alam did, to become MLC but the party chose latter. The kind of reward Karra had wanted for delivering Srinagar to PDP never came his way.

THE HAUNTED HOUSE

There is another interesting story that badly upset Karra. Early last year he met the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and asked for allotment of a particularly house on the power-famed Gupkar Road. That house was earlier held by Devinder Singh Rana of National Conference during his tenure as Advisor to then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Mufti, or perhaps someone else in the government, didn’t want to upset Rana. However, after a lot of reluctance, a file was processed and house was allotted to Karra. One fine morning Karra household was buzzed by Estates Department to collect the keys of Gupkar house. An aide reached the Estates office but he was allegedly made to wait for hours. During this time there was perhaps an afterthought at some level that Karra was requested for an alternative choice as the Government allowed NC leader to retain the house.

PDP POST MUFTI

After Mufti Sayeed’s demise in January, Mehbooba Mufti went into a self imposed political seclusion for weeks. Even as Naeem Akhtar and few others would make occasional statements of rethink on alliance with PDP, but Mehbooba was not holding consultations with anyone. Muzaffar Baig also went into a silence for a long while before speaking out that “Mehbooba is the only natural successor and there is complete consensus on that within PDP”. Even if Mehbooba had doubts on re-stitching alliance with BJP after Mufti’s death, Karra was one among those leaders who provided her courage and support to go back to BJP. Karra’s rallying behind Mehbooba on the issue of alliance with BJP was so significant for the PDP that the party released such a photograph of its crucial meeting in Srinagar where Karra was seen sitting next to Mehbooba. He was the one who went public to propose Mehbooba’s name for the post of CM of the alliance government of PDP and BJP.
Since politics has its own rules of the game, those who rallied around Mehbooba to settle down with BJP despite self admitted unpopular alliance, would have certainly wanted key role in the decision making process. At this stage Karra again found himself out of the loop. Besides elevations of the men (and women) of his preference, Karra’s stand is very much public that he had wanted Altaf Bukhari, Naeem Akhtar and Haseeb Drabu to be dropped from the Mehbooba cabinet. Except for the case of Bukhari, nothing of Karra’s preference happened eventually.

He made his anger known not only by boycotting Mehbooba’s swearing in ceremony in April this year but also making public statements of his displeasure. Some of the statements reproduced here are an evidence of Karra’s deep rooted trouble within the organizational framework of the PDP.

His resignation on the pretext of ongoing unrest in Kashmir could eventually prove to be another miscalculation as many political leaders are expecting the fall of Mehbooba government if the unrest persists. However, if Mehbooba stays put the heroic resignation from party and the Parliament could spell an end to Karra’s political career which was honed by none other than Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.



Excerpt from Karra’s Statement to the Press in April

"I have boycotted the swearing-in-ceremony. During the discussion on finalisation of council of ministers, I had certain reservations (over the induction of three PDP MLAs-Altaf Bukhari, Naeem Akhter and Haseeb Drabu) which I had put before the party chief in the first meeting in Srinagar"


Excerpts from an interview Karra gave to a Srinagar Newspaper

Q: Why are you opposing them?

KARRA: They have no stakes. Bukhari is a businessman. Naeem has neither contested elections nor voted. His MLA lost in his village because he acted against him. The PDP lost wherever Naeem was in-charge of the constituencies. Similarly, Drabu has no stakes. Had it not been Mehbooba and Waheed-ur-Rehman Para, he would not have won.

Q: How do you see Mehbooba as chief minister?

KARRA: Mehbooba is inexperienced. That’s one of the reason she wanted holy cows around. What will be your role in the party? Will you take any assignment in the party? I will be like a watchdog. I think there is trust deficit. Mehbooba and people around her have to clear their hearts and minds. I don’t want to be a rubber stamp.


Q: What prompted you to intervene in the government formation and did you inform Mehbooba that her own party men were planning a split?


KARRA: Had I not done it, Altaf Bukhari would have traded assets and natural resources of Kashmir. I am saying it with authority and responsibly. I was also approached by them. I conveyed it to Mehbooba and asked her to take a call on the government.
Updated On 9/17/2016 3:53:42 PM

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