Rivals denounce Shah Faesal-Engineer Rashid-led PUF as anti-Kashmiri, BJP plan to divide mandate in Valley

Sameer Yasir
The creation of Peoples United Front (PUF) has upset the mainstream political parties in Kashmir, who are accusing the Engineer Rasheed and ShahFaesal-led alliance of helping the BJP by dividing votes in the Valley

On Tuesday, amid a usual encounter and militant attack in deep south, Kashmir witnessed the formation of another political front, the Peoples United Front (PUF), on the lines of the historic Muslim United Front (MUF) of 1987.

The difference, according to political analysts, however, is that unlike the MUF, the PUF may inadvertently end up helping the BJP by dividing the political mandate in the Valley.

The BJP's agenda, observe political analysts is the furthering of the electoral division in Kashmir region to facilitate its resurgence in Jammu and fulfil its promise of installing a Hindu chief minister from the Jammu region in the state.

"It will happen this time. A dream is to come true," said Ravinder Raina, adding, "We will have a Hindu chief minister from Jammu this time."

The PUF, a new political front launched by Awami Ittihad Party (AIP) chairman Engineer Rasheed and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM) chairman Shah Faesal for the upcoming legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, is largely seen as a northern alliance in Kashmir politics.

"We have come together at a time when the state is in dire need of revival," Faesal said while addressing a presser at the Press Club Kashmir in Srinagar. "We will not let the people down and give them a credible alternative and a force to reckon with," he added.

Rasheed said that the PUF will be a credible voice for the people of the state.

"PUF will form the next government in the state," boasted Rasheed, a firebrand politician who till yesterday would throw his weight behind the right to self determination for Kashmir. "We will be a credible alternative as there is a vacuum in the state that needs to be filled," he added.

The alliance has already sent shock waves to other political parties. The most worried is Peoples Conference's chief Sajad Gani Lone. His deputy and former state minister Imram Ansari has already dismissed the group as "sadbhawna alliance", alluding that the PUF is the creation of the Indian Army.

The tag 'sadbhawana' is often used in Kashmir to ostracise a political group, an individual or an idea. Many have lost their lives for being called "Indian agents", as a smear campaign goes on unabated and truth becomes the casualty.

Even New Delhi's traditional local counterparts €" the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party €" seem worried by the PUF.

Former chief minister and National Conference's vice president Omar Abdullah had previously raised questions about the formation of political groups like PUF during the election time, and in Kashmir only. He had argued that these groups are being floated to divide the mandate of Kashmir-based parties in Kashmir.

"There is a fear in New Delhi that if the NC or PDP will come in majority in the state, they won't let its nefarious designs to succeed in Kashmir," a senior NC leader said, adding, "But let me tell you something, the move to divide mandate through these new parties is not happening for the first time in Kashmir."

The senior NC leader says that during the 1960s and 1970s, New Delhi had raised local Congress cadres €" denounced as "gutter worms" by Sheikh Abdullah €" to cut the National Conference to size.

"Later, in the late 1990s," the NC leader claimed, "New Delhi floated PDP, further to rob the NC of the big mandate it once enjoyed. With the result now, no Kashmiri party is getting majority in the elections to form its own government. So, who's benefitting from this? Of course, BJP-led New Delhi, which is bent on installing a Hindu chief minister in the Valley!"

Intriguingly, while these political alliances and fronts are making inroads in the Valley, Jammu, which is the state's winter capital, largely remains immune to this "political infiltration".

"BJP knows that they are in a solid position in Jammu. So dividing the political mandate there remains out of question. They are raising their proxies in the form of this new political front to crush the old guards in order to clear the deck for a Hindu chief minister of the state," said Mushtaq Shah, a Srinagar-based commentator.

"In this new scheme of things, even BJP's own former Kashmir ally Sajad Lone remains irrelevant. That's how power politics works. It prefers opportunities over loyalties."

What's further making this new political enterprise a threat in the Valley is the latest feat of Engineer Rasheed, who received over 1 lakh votes from Baramulla Parliamentary constituency during the Lok Sabha election.

This has led many analysts to believe that, the PUF may win at least six seats in the upcoming Assembly election in the state. And that is the number BJP will have in mind from the Valley, during the upcoming elections.

Also See: Shah Faesal-led JKMP, Awami Ittehad Party form alliance ahead of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections

Former MLA Engineer Rashid to join Shah Faesal's JKPM; move likely to hurt PDP, NC's fortunes in upcoming J&K Assembly polls

Mainstream parties in J&K angry with Centre's delimitation plans for state Assembly constituencies

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