‘I don’t have the numbers to form the Govt’
The rebel Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) MLA Molvi Imran Raza Ansari in an exclusive interview with Rising Kashmir Op-ed Editor, Daanish Bin Nabi talks about a host of issues that laid the basis of contention between him and PDP high command. These issues range from family interference to taking Tassaduq Mufti as a minister in Mehbooba Mufti-led government, from corruption to nepotism. He also says that the disgruntled PDP MLAs do not have the numbers to form a new government with the rightwingBharatiyaJanata Party (BJP). Excerpts
What actually happened between you and PDP high command?
Nothing happened all of sudden. Three months after Mehoobaji took oath as the chief minister of the State, I told her that things were not right. Then I also tendered resignation as a minister. After my resignation, the party high command gave me assurances that my genuine demands would be fulfilled. However, things started to aggravate when Mehboobaji became close to non-political actors. She delegated all her decision-making powers to these non-political actors. At times, Mehboobaji used to undo her own decisions because of these non-political actors. The actual problem started when she said she wants her brother, Tassaduq Mufti, to be in the party. The political workers, who were associated with her and her party, and had given blood for the party, for the past 15 years became disheartened when she got Tassaduq into the party fold.
But why was there such resentment against Tassaduq?
Tassaduq is no one in politics. He is someone who was brought from Delhi to rule the elected members.
Who were these non-political actors?
There were quite a few. First, there were Mehboobaji’s family member and then there were the likes of Naeem Akhtar and PeerzadaMansoorHussain.
When you told her, things were not right, what did you mean?
There were a lot of family interventions. Her family interfered in every domain of the government. Then there was her Mamu, and relatives, who reside outside India. They interfered in every issue. This is no secret. It can even be confirmed from other party members. Things had come to such a level that people who we never met would decide our fate.
How did her family intervene?
Whenever anyone interferes in the domain of a politician, he or she no longer remains a politician. Whenever there were issues like posting of officers or starting a new scheme, it was always her family that would decide about it. We could not decide about such issues even being politicians. Whatever her family members decided or were interested in, they did it on her behalf.
There are also allegations of deep-rooted corruption against the government that you were part of?
There is no denying the fact that corruption was going on but where her family members involved or not, it is better to ask her this question. Yes, there are allegations of corruption and nepotism against her.
And what did Imran Raza Ansari do to stop this corruption?
The decisions taken in a cabinet meeting are taken collectively. However, for the first time, despite being cabinet ministers, we could not intervene in a lot of issues. Mehboobaji would always tell us that she knows what to do.
Being the Minister for Youth Services and Sports, you also headed the Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council. What did you do for the promotion of sports in the State?
Waheed-ur-Rehman Para used to head the Sports Council. Mehboobaji was the President and I was the Vice President. Most of the decisions were taken by Mehboobaji. My only role in the Sports Council was to get money from different quarters in New Delhi and give it to them. How they would spend it, was upto them.
Are you going to form the government with the BJP?
To form the government, we need numbers and, presently, we don’t have the numbers. I am neither the person making claims of forming the government nor do I have the numbers.
It seems you are not keen or interested in forming the government?
I am the Muazzin (the one who calls the faithful for prayers) and I have alerted the people. Now whosoever wants to offer prayers is most welcome and can join us.
Independent legislator Engineer Rasheed also talks on same lines about being against the status quo.
He has his own thinking and ideology but as far as I am concerned, I only want that if a government is formed in Jammu Kashmir, it should know its domain. That government should be for peoples’ safety, and what people actually want in terms of development. The government should be corruption-free. As far as Muftis and Abdullahas are concerned, they always ask for votes for development but when they fail on ground, then they confuse people by saying that they want to bring in a resolution of Kashmir. People should know that resolution of Kashmir is the domain of Government of India while development and governance is the role of the State assembly.
If PDP is a family party, why did you join it in the first place?
PDP was not a family party when we joined it. PDP’s first slogan was to finish the family rule in the State. Not only my father but I also defended the party till very recently. Things changed in the party. Among many components like self-rule, Mufti (Muhammad Sayeed) sahab had kept an important component in the party and that was ‘Peoples’ Democratic Party’ meaning the party belonged to the people.
When Mufti Sayeed was battling for his life at AIIMS, the PDP MLAs including you unanimously decided to elect Mehbooba as the party president.
She has worked a lot for PDP. After the demise of late Mufti sahab, Mehboobaji was the unanimous choice. However, after taking oath as the chief minister, certain people got promoted in the party like her maternal uncle SartajMadni was made the vice president and PeerzadaMansoorHussain was made Birbal-e-Aala. Then people like Naeem Akhtar were given more prominence. The actual problem started here.
Many consider Naeem Akhtar as the man responsible for all the dissent within PDP.
The person who doesn’t know about politics, the man who has never went before the electorate, and the man who throughout his life remained a bureaucrat, such a person introduced policies that created problems for the party. The question is why is Naeem Akhtar in the party in the first place? We didn’t have shortage of elected representatives. In Akhtar’s native village, PDP failed to secure even a single vote. The most unfortunate part is Mehboobaji would listen to such a man instead of an elected MLA.
But has he not always been referred to as PDP’s Birbal? He must be doing something right to be Mehbooba’s confidante.
The situation PDP is now in is because of these Birbals. When a Mughal emperor was only 14, his close coterie made him ‘Akbar the Great’. And look what Mehboobaji’s coterie has made her.
Coming back to government formation, are you in touch with BJP high command?
No, not at all.
Not even at individual level with Amit Shah, Ram Madhav or the State BJP?
I am not in touch with anyone of them. I only want to say that that there should be an alternative to these two families in the government and I am working day and night for that.
So are we going to see a Third Front in the State?
Insha Allah, you will see the First Front.
Will you float your own party?
Why not? Is there any problem in it?
There are also reports that you might join SajjadLone’s Peoples Conference (PC).
It is also a political party.
So, you are keeping your options open.
As I said, it is also a political party.
Is it true that BJP has given Rs 100 crore to MLAs for engineering defections in Jammu Kashmir?
Whosoever is saying this is doing injustice to Kashmiris. Everyone is not dishonest. Basically, when these two families meet Delhi and strike a deal, that is not injustice but when anybody else is in touch with Delhi or takes Delhi on board, there is a problem. When Mehboobaji said that if New Delhi resorts to horse-trading of lawmakers, then new Salahuddins and YasinMaliks would be born again, did it mean that only Mehboobaji has the right to rule over Jammu Kashmir.
Do you think BJP is presently the popular choice in the State?
They had a clear mandate from Jammu. Factually, BJP had 87 candidates in every constituency of the State in 2014 election. They also got 55,000 to 60,000 votes from Kashmir province only. Where did all these votes come from? If we (Kashmiris) had a problem with a particular party, the first thing would have been that the party would not have been able to field candidates. Second, having candidates, they got around 60,000 votes only from Kashmir province.
What about a Hindu CM for the State?
Let’s not discuss this at the moment. We don’t have seat as of now. The CM seat is the next step. We have not even crossed the first step, which are the numbers.
Is BJP doing anything about defection of MLAs in Jammu Kashmir?
No, they are not. Had that been the case, being a disgruntled MLA, they would have approached me first. None among them approached me.
How different is Mehbooba from her father?
Mufti Sayeed was a statesman who knew sensitivities of every place. He used to walk, talk, eat and drink politics. He was an outstanding personality.
Had Mufti Sayeed been in a similar situation like Mehbooba, would the situation have been any different?
Had he been among us, this situation would not have been there in the first place.
Any fond memories of Mufti Sayeed?
He knew that peoples’ voices were more valuable than cronies and family. He was beyond all this. He was a fatherly figure for me too.
Are there any chances of you joining back PDP?
Absolutely not. Although PDP is my own party, I am not going back to Mehboobaji for sure.
If Mehbboba Mufti steps down as the party president, then are there any chances of you joining back PDP?
You will get an appropriate answer when such a time arrives.
In one of your tweets, you had referred to “like-minded” people. Who are these “like-minded” people?
There are a number of people who think like us. To form the government, we need MLAs and not the MLCs. But we are in a situation where MLCs are also joining us. MLCs can’t help us in making the government. So these are the people who I referred to as “like-minded” people.
Do you see PDP’s decline and if you do what are the reasons?
Family rule, cronyism, nepotism, and not consulting people who know what is happening on the ground.
Do you think Mufti Sayeed did the right thing by joining hands with BJP?
Yes. Why should he not have joined handed with BJP? Twenty five MLAs from Jammu are all from BJP. How could he have ignored them?
So you were comfortable with the PD-BJP coalition unlike some other leaders of PDP?
Yes, I was very comfortable with the BJP. They have been so good to us. It is Mehboobaji’s incompetence that she could not deliver. You cannot blame everything on BJP. She asked for ceasefire BJP gave it to her. She asked for money, BJP gave it to her. She asked that there should be no talks on Article 370 and Article 35-A, BJP did not touch those contentious issues. Whatever she wanted, BJP obliged her at every step. She was never stopped from doing anything. She was an undisputed leader of Jammu Kashmir. BJP was always there to help her.
If BJP manages to get MLAs on its side, is Imran Ansari comfortable with BJP?
Yes, if it is for the development of the State, then I am all for BJP. When Omar or Mehbooba does it, there is no problem but when a third person goes with BJP, he is questioned.