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Taking the bull by the horn

Peoples Democratic Party President Mahbooba Mufti’s decision to contest from south Kashmir parliamentary seat could be termed as a bold and calculated. Bold; because she knows it for the fact that she is the most unpopular political being in Kashmir presently. Calculated; because she knows she is taking on a first-time political nominee. Mahbooba Mufti is competing against National Conference nominee and former high court Justice Hasnain Masoodi. This is Justice Masoodi’s first rendezvous with politics. He is not known to a vast majority of people across the board. He has remained out of public gaze during entire career. However, it was in the last days of his career that he caught public and political attention. In October 2015, while presiding over a case about Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Justice Masoodi gave a landmark ruling on Article 370 of Indian constitution which accords special status to the state. Justice Masoodi, in his judgment, said that Article 370 was a permanent Article and it could not be altered or aborted. The permanent status of 370 is facing a challenge in the Supreme Court by some hard-line Hindu individuals and groups. Justice Masoodi’s retired from service just two months later, and again went off the public minds. Mahbooba Mufti is counting on this weakness of her NC rival. But despite this, it would not be an easy walk for the PDP President.

Mahbooba Mufti is facing a sort of political isolation presently. She is the most disliked person in party bastion, south Kashmir. Since its rise to power in 2002, south Kashmir has remained a stronghold of the PDP. The PDP has won all the parliamentary election held since 2004 from south Kashmir. In Assembly elections too, the PDP won majority of the seats in south Kashmir (10 in 2002, 12 in 2008, 10 in 2014). But everything changed in 2016 when a mass rebellion against Indian rule began in the wake of Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing by government forces. Hundreds and thousands hit streets to mourn the death of Wani. Government forces used all their might and power to crush the rebellion. Over 100 persons, mostly young school and college going students fell to the bullets of government forces. More than 15,000 other persons were injured in pellet firing by government forces. Hundreds of them were hit in eyes losing eyes sight, some of them permanently. Hundreds others were brutalized by use of other muscular means. Mahbooba Mufti not only watched the brutality as a distant gawk but also justified the use of force. She defended the killing of the people in streets and said when people attack some formation of security forces, it would evoke reaction. On one occasions, she crossed all borders while justifying these killings saying “what for they (those killed in police firing) gone there. (Who kiya doodh aur toffee lene gaye thay, she said. The withdrawal of support by the BJP that led to the fall of Mahbooba Mufti government struck further blow to her party. That led to dozens of senior leaders and former minister of the PDP to leave the party and join other parties or form their own one. Mahbooba was virtually living in political seclusion. It was, however, her arch rival Omar Abdullah who gave her a new life and brought her out again in the political limelight. As a move to block central government’s move to dissolve assembly in November, Omar Abdullah declared support for formation of the government in the state by joining hands with PDP. Though the move did not materialize as central government played spoilsport but it definitely provided Mahbooba Mufti a corridor to come of the isolation and take the central stage. Though people have not forgotten yet the reign of terror they faced in her regime but she has since been trying to refresh her relationship with voters in south Kashmir. By taking the challenge of facing the election in person shows her renewed confidence and conviction