New Delhi: Muzaffar Hussain Baig, co-founder of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir, was on Saturday conferred the third-highest civilian award — the Padma Bhushan.
Baig was one of the few leaders who was not detained by the Union government after abrogation of provisions of Article 370 on August 5 last year.
He has been awarded for his contribution to "public affairs" and is amongst the 16 people who have been honoured with the Padma Bhushan.
Baig, a former Lok Sabha member, hails from north Kashmir and is also an advocate.
A political veteran in the erstwhile state and a deputy chief minister in the last BJP-PDP alliance, the 73-year-old started out as a legal expert and rose to become the advocate general of Jammu and Kashmir. Along with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Baig co-founded the PDP of which he was appointed vice-president.
After Sayeed's death, while Mehbooba Mufti became the face of her party, Baig continued to work in the background and supervised big political decisions. It was Baig with whom RSS's Ram Madhav held two meetings in 2014 — one at his home in Srinagar, the other in the capital — before the two parties formally announced a tie-up.
However, a rift was reported between him and Mehbooba Mufti over time. In 2016, Baig wrote open letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mufti claiming that the only achievement of the BJP-PDP government was to further alienate the people of Kashmir.
The next year, Baig reportedly said that Modi was "God's choice" for India and, if supported, he will be the next man of the millennium.
"The way Mahatma Gandhi who, to my understanding was conferred with the title of Man of the Millennium, the best person to have lived on the earth in thousand years, people like Einstein, Newton, Napoleon, Lincoln came and I feel if we all work together with Modiji, he [Modi] will be the man of the next millennium,” he had said.
When the BJP pulled out from the alliance in 2018, when the PDP and the National Conference (NC) were trying to form a government, and when Sajjad Lone-headed third front was coming up with a splinter faction of the PDP, Baig told reporters that he was considering joining the latter.
The politician, whom a news portal described as "The PDP Man With The BJP Tongue', had criticised party chief Mufti while expressing shock at the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A and holding her responsible for downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories by making "provocative" and "threatening" statements over the legislations.
Baig is likely to be in the centre of political action in Jammu and Kashmir as it inches towards 'normalcy' and in near future prepares itself for Assembly elections.