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Breaking silence over his sacking from the cabinet, former finance minister Haseeb Drabu on Tuesday said the “manner and method” in which he was communicated about the decision was “shocking” and “painful” while stating that he wasn’t given opportunity to “explain” context and content of his speech in a conference at New Delhi that led to his ouster.

On Monday the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti dropped Drabu from the cabinet, a day after her party, PDP had asked him to retract his statement that Kashmir “isn’t a political issues” but “a society with social issues”. The party’s disciplinary committee had also sought explanation from Drabu for making the statement “detrimental to party’s interests”.  

“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 take to media before talking to me, was painful. I was not accorded the opportunity to explain the context and the content of my speech,” Drabu writes in a 3-page statement issued to media this evening. “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 12 March. I stand informed by the media first as a speculation then as a fact.”

Narrating the sequence of events that had unfolded Drabu writes that after his speech at the event at New Delhi on 9 March, he came across a press statement of PDP vice president Sartaj Madni on March 11 stating that resolution of J&K’s political problem was core agenda of the party while asking Drabu to retract the statement.

By evening, the statement mentions, a letter from chairman disciplinary committee A R Veeri was delivered at Drabu’s residence, asking "me to explain the statement which has 'caused a serious dent to the image of the party'". 

“I called Veeri Sahab but he was probably unable to take my call. He had later called back as I saw a missed call from his number. Next day morning I spoke to Veeri Sahib and he suggested that I should talk to the party president and the Chief Minister. I called the Chief Minister’s residence in New Delhi and was told that she was busy and would call me back in 10 minutes. That call never came. By early afternoon I called up the Chief Minister residence and sought an appointment. Even as I was waiting for it, it was reported on the website of daily Greater Kashmir that the Chief Minister had decided to drop me from council of ministers and had written to the Governor to this effect. I finally got a call to meet the CM at 7.15 pm,” the statement mentions, asserting that he deemed it necessary to set the records straight.

Referring to his speech at New Delhi in a conference of ambassadors and industrialists, “who could be possible investors in peace in J&K”, Drabu said he tried to make the point that Kashmir was not only a political issue to be resolved by India and successive governments at the centre and the state, but that there was a social issue that needs to be resolved at the level of civil society.

“It (speech) was made in larger context of how our society has been ravaged and has impaired real-life situations and sensibilities especially of the youth. As an example, relevant to the ambassadors present, I quoted the case of the travel advisories of various countries, in this context, which may be politically induced but on ground are effectively acting as a social boycott of Kashmiris. This, I said, in turn engenders a political thinking that is isolationist. The need as such is for civil society institutions to get involved and make interventions in their areas of influence to resolve the social issues pervading our society,” Drabu refers to his speech.  “There have been 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. When I was chairman of the J&K Bank, I used to lament the fact that while as around 40 percent of shareholding of the bank was with foreign institutional investors, not a single Indian Institution was invested with the bank.”

On 14 June 2014, Drabu writes,  he delivered a keynote address in Srinagar along the same lines. “An abridged version was published on 18 June 2014 in Greater Kashmir. Only a few days back, I spoke at the Indian Econometric Conference and asked the researchers to show me a single research they would have done in J&K. I called it the “Apathy of the Academia”. The same is true for engagement at the levels of individuals, intelligentsia and trade & commerce. Those who heard my speech or care to read it dispassionately will know that when I was talking about our aspirations and the efforts at self-discovery, I was in fact nuancing the very stand of the People’s Democratic Party before a very select audience,” the statement mentions.

“To the best of my understanding and knowledge, this in no way goes 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. 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 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 says in the statement.

Notwithstanding this, Drabu says he was “very grateful” to former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti to have been given him opportunity to contribute in “whatever small way I could in accomplishing the party patron’s vision of addressing the distressing situation in and around J&K which has jeopardized the security, peace and prosperity of the people of the state and imperilled stability in the subcontinent”.

Talking about his association with the PDP, Drabu says it dates to the years when he wasn’t even formally into politics. “The rapport I enjoyed with its late founder and patron (Mufti) is something that I would cherish all my life. The unflinching confidence that he always reposed in me and the relationship of trust that we shared is my source of strength to endure this situation. 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”. 

Talking about his association with Mufti from 2003 when he was appointed as economic advisor of the government, Drabu said: “If there is one thing that I feel very proud of in my political stint in Kashmir till now, it is that I was Mufti Sahib’s Finance Minister. It was Mufti Sahab who inspired me and indeed persuaded me to join the politics as according to him politics provides the best instrument to serve the people and bring change in their lives”.

In his statement Drabu writes that when he was asked by the party president (Mehbooba) to contest 2014 Assembly elections from Rajpora constituency, it was an honour and he was overwhelmed by the support extended by the people to PDP’s inclusive and progressive policies resulting in his maiden election as an MLA from the area.

“I assure the people of the area that I will continue to work for them. I am very grateful to them for their love and affection. I must thank Mehbooba ji for reposing trust in me which helped this Government to set off so many pioneering initiatives in the specific area of public expenditure management and generally in the fronts of economic development.  I bear no ill will against anyone. That’s simply not my way of being,” the statement mentions.

Concluding his statement Drabu mentions that he was committed to work for welfare of people of the state in whatever capacity he is now.

“At a personal level, for me and my family, it is Dejavu!” Drabu writes.