The Peoples Democratic Party on Monday elected its senior leader MuzaffarHussainBaig as the party patron amid attempts by Mehbooba Mufti to reach out to disgruntled members and keep the party intact ahead of assembly elections scheduled in Jammu and Kashmir early next year. “Baigsahab was unanimously elected as the PDP patron after the party president proposed his name,” PDP’s chief spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir told Greater Kashmir.
The decision, taken during the four-hour-long meeting presided over by Mehbooba, comes weeks after Baig—one of the co-founders of the PDP—had threatened to resign from the party and join the Sajad Lone-led “third front”.
The development also comes at a time when four former PDP MLAs have already left the party, even as rumours of more leaders likely to quit it ahead of the assembly elections are doing rounds.
The position of PDP patron was last held by the former chief minister, late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
After his election, Baig admitted that the rebellion in the party was a “concern”. “Yes, it is a concern and we will find ways to address it,” he said.
Baig, who has held the position of PDP president in the past, had criticised the party on November 20 over “the way it performed” during the last two-and-a-half years and had accused the party leadership of “aping” National Conference to boycott the municipal and panchayat polls.
Following his open criticism, Mehbooba met Baig at his residence here on December 4.
“We have challenges in front of us now; also in the form of the next assembly elections and that is our priority,” Baig responded to a question.
He, however, said some members who have quit PDP had some “genuine grievances”.
“I raised this issue (about rebellion) in the meeting and told them that some members including Imran Ansari (who joined Peoples Conference) had genuine concerns,” Baig said.
A senior party leader said Baig suggested that the PDP shouldn’t close doors to anybody including those who were angry with it.
During the meeting, Mehbooba gave a “clear message” to party members that she was ready to make a “fresh beginning, not only to serve the party, but also to take the Kashmir agenda forward”.
“If you (members) want to stay in the party, then stay with commitment for the agenda for which the party was created. But if anybody wants to leave for greener pastures, he should behave like a man and leave and don’t invent excuses,” a senior party leader quoted Mehbooba as saying during the meeting.
Defending the decision of her late father Sayeed to enter into alliance with the right-wing BharatiyaJanata Party, she said it “wasn’t a mistake but a risk taken to attempt and deliver what was promised to the people in the form of the agenda of the PDP”.
“I have started this party from zero and I’m ready to go back to people to build it,” she said, urging the party leaders to stay united and work with her to “take the organisation and State out of present crisis”.
During the meeting, the party leader said, “some disgruntled members” and those who had been “sidelined” also spoke, though some members including BasharatBukhari, ChoudharyQamar, ZulfikarChoudhary and SurinderChoudhary stayed away.
A party member said all the four had some “prior commitments”.
The meeting, the party leader said, also decided to constitute parliamentary advisory board and reconstitute political affairs committee, the highest decision-making body of the PDP.
“The party leaders and former legislators were also asked by the president to go back to their constituencies and start preparations of the assembly elections,” said the PDP member.
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