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Diva of deceit - Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president

Diva of deceit - Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president

Author: Aijaz Hussain
Publication: India Today
Date: September 1, 2008

Introduction: "Which government transfers thousands of Kanals of forest land to a shrine anywhere?"

It was the most blatant volte face in recent history. The May 26 order that okayed the transfer of land for use of the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board was approved by the then forest minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal, a PDP leader.

Nearly a month later, after gauging the public mood, Mehbooba Mufti distanced herself from a decision taken in tandem with her partymen. "Neither my father nor I was consulted on this," she said, straight-faced.

Giving in to coalition pressure, the then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad agreed to her demands and revoked the order. No matter. She still withdrew support from the government.

Sensing the public mood of defiance against the land transfer, the PDP President tried to ride the tide by siding with the mass protests. Her attempt to appropriate separatism while staying in the mainstream however boomeranged as the Valley erupted.

The PDP accused the Congress of having "blackmailed" it into the land deal. When this spin did not work-Mehbooba received rebuke from the Congress-she again tried to blatantly misinform the public saying her party was caught unawares about the cabinet decision.

But she took nearly a month to come out with this charge due to which she lost whatever credibility she had garnered. Moreover, it was clear that with the state Assembly elections barely six months away, Mehbooba was just looking for an excuse to distance herself from the current Government. The Amarnath land issue had all the right overtones to appeal to her votebank.

She did not stop there and joined the protests against the "economic blockade" of the Valley. When the people of Kashmir went on to march on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, she tried to appropriate credit for this move by saying that "people are mobilising on my party's demand".

This angered the locals, who have, in fact, started feeling frustrated at Mehbooba's blatant manoeuvring of popular separatist sentiment retrofitted to suit New Delhi's approach to Kashmir.

It was the application of this duality of standards that defined her long hardened habit of appropriating everything that people stood for but her party had never represented. Despite this duplicity, she and the PDP have managed to find patronage in New Delhi's corridors of power.

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