Former Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu on Tuesday broke silence on his unceremonious exit from the Mehbooba Mufti government saying the decision was a “surprise” and the manner in which it was conveyed “shocking”.
The 57-year-old issued a three-page statement minutes after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti gave additional charge of finance and labour to the state’s Education Minister Syed Mohammed Altaf Bukhari.
In the 21-point statement, Drabu said the decision to “drop me did come as a surprise but what was shocking was the manner and method of communicating it.”
“While I understand and accept the decision of the party, to talk to media before talking to me, was painful. I was not accorded the opportunity to explain the context and the content of my speech,” said Drabu, who was a key architect of the alliance between PDP and BJP.
A former journalist, Drabu, said “even as I issue this statement, I have no formal or even personal communication either from the government or from the party about my being dropped from the Cabinet on 12th of March. I stand informed by the media first as a speculation then as a fact.”
Drabu was axed from the state Cabinet yesterday over his statement in a function organised by the PHDCCI in New Delhi that people were “barking up the wrong tree” for decades as the Kashmir issue was not a political one.
“It (JK) is not a political issue as far as I can see. They have been barking up the wrong tree for the last 50 or 70 years by talking about the politics of it; that the political situation has never improved. We seriously need to look at in terms of how it is a society that is in search for itself,” he had said.
Justifying his remarks, Drabu said he was speaking to a select gathering of Ambassadors and industrialists, who could be possible investors in peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
“I tried to make the point that Kashmir was not only a political issue to be resolved by the nation state of India and the successive governments at the centre and the state, but that there is a social issue that needs to be resolved at the level of the civil society.
“It was made in the larger context of how our society has been ravaged and has impaired real-life situations and sensibilities especially of the youth,” he said.
The former finance minister, who won elections from Rajpora assembly seat of Pulwama in south Kashmir, said there were innuendoes that “I said this or was made to say this with an ulterior motive. The fact is that it is a long-held belief and I have repeatedly said it that the engagement with Kashmir should be at various levels.”
He said to his best understanding and knowledge, whatever he had stated in his speech did not go against the articulated and stated political position of PDP.
“Nor does it dent its image. It is, in fact, very much a part of the PDP’s political philosophy and agenda of reconciliation,” he said.
Giving details of events preceding his exit, Drabu said he received a letter from A R Veeri, chairman of PDP’s disciplinary committee, seeking an explanation about his statement which ’caused a serious dent to the image of the party.’
Taking a veiled dig, Drabu said “as for my understanding of the political ideology of PDP, it is based on my drafting of various election manifestoes, the aspirational agenda, and the all-important Self Rule document, which Mufti (Mohammed Sayeed) Sahib involved me in.
“Indeed, the terms and conditions based on which the current PDP-BJP alliance was formed, the Agenda of alliance, was drafted under his guidance.”
Drabu, who is considered close to the BJP leadership, expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Mufti for giving him the opportunity to contribute towards accomplishing the PDP mission.
“Notwithstanding this, I am very grateful to Mufti (Mohammad Sayeed) Sahib and Mehbooba ji to have been given the opportunity to contribute in whatever small way I could in accomplishing the party patron’s vision of addressing the distressing situation in and around Jammu and Kashmir which has jeopardised the security, peace and prosperity of the people of the state and imperilled stability in the subcontinent,” he said.
Remembering his association with late chief minister, Drabu said “not for nothing did he entrust me with the task of negotiating with the BJP and make me the pointsman for the alliance which was later continued by Mehbooba ji. Every single meeting, discussion and negotiations were done with the knowledge and consent of the patron and the president.”
Meanwhile, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah termed the chief minister’s decision to sack Drabu “right”. Although it’s an internal matter of the PDP but his statement of Kashmir not being a political issue was condemned by everyone cutting across the party lines in Kashmir, he said.