The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Mehbooba Mufti seems to have become a political outcast in the Kashmir Valley. In the just-concluded seat sharing agreement between the National Conference (JKNC) and the Congress, PDP has been effectively dumped by the INDIA bloc.

The NC and the Congress this week formally sealed a seat-sharing agreement in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. According to the agreement, the JKNC will field its candidates from all three Lok Sabha constituencies of the Valley, while the Congress will contest three seats — two in Jammu and one in Ladakh.

Political analysts in the Valley believe that this reflects the PDP’s complete political isolation. The reasons for this include the declining popularity of the party, its past alliance with the BJP, and the defection of key leaders over a period of time.

A liability

Although both the NC and the PDP are the part of INDIA bloc, squabbling between the two parties began last month after Omar Abdullah explicitly stated that the party would contest the elections independently, citing PDP’s dismal performance in the 2019 polls. Mehbooba, on the other hand, blamed the JKNC for dismantling the People’s Declaration for Gupkar Alliance (PAGD), a regional grouping, for taking a unilateral decision.

However, she was still confident that being part of the INDIA Alliance, she would still be able to secure the Congress’s support.

But the seat-sharing agreement between the NC and Congress for all six seats in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh clearly indicates that they perceive the PDP as a liability.

Noor Ahmad Baba, a prominent Valley-based political analyst and former professor at University of Kashmir, said that the seat sharing agreement effectively marks the exclusion of the PDP from the INDIA alliance and political isolation. The PDP now being viewed as a liability by both the NC and the Congress. “No party wants to decrease the number of its own seats by entering a seat sharing agreement with the PDP,” said Baba.

Declining Popularity

The PDP’s declining popularity in the Valley is being seen as one of the key reasons for keeping the party out of the sharing adjustment. The party started ceding its ground to the NC particularly in its stronghold of south Kashmir after it sewed an alliance with the BJP in 2014. This move led to the perception among the people that the PDP brought BJP into state politics.

The PDP has significantly lost the support it enjoyed before 2014 elections. In the 2019 LS elections, Mehbooba was routed by Hasnain Masoodi, a relatively new political entrant representing the NC. The party also faced the problem of desertion with over 40 leaders, including former legislators and ministers, switching over to other parties.

These leaders mostly joined the newly-formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party and the Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference.

The PDP chief, however, blamed the current dispensation for dismantling her party and claimed that it is the PDP that “represents the true sentiments of the people of J&K”.