Even as southern Kashmir’s Bijbehera bid adieu to late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the power corridors in Jammu and Kashmir are rife with the possibility of his daughter and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti likely to take over as Chief Minister of the sensitive state. While her party has thrown its weight behind Mehbooba, her alliance partner – BJP – too needs to be on board with the decision.
If it happens, 56-year-old Mehbooba Mufti will be Jammu and Kashmir’s first woman chief minister.
“As far as PDP is concerned, we are unanimous that Mehbooba shall succeed Mufti Sahib,” senior PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Baig told the press in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, all ears are at the BJP as well, whose approval is imperative for Mehbooba’s ascent to the post of the Chief Minister. In the 87-member state legislative assembly, where 44 is the magic mark, PDP has 28 MLAs and its ‘junior’ partner BJP has 25.
Although, there is no seeming opposition from the BJP on Mehbooba’s elevation, according to the reports, the final decision on the issue will be taken by the BJP top leadership. The decision is likely to be announced early as the state assembly’s Budget session is slated to begin on January 18.
Mehbooba, the 56-year-old mother of two daughters and the president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), started her political career in 1996 by joining Congress along with her father. She won her first Assembly election as Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara.
She also played a key role in her father’s victory as Congress candidate in 1998 Lok Sabha elections when Sayeed defeated NC’s Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir.
The Muftis, however, split from the Congress in 1999 and along with some key associates floated their own regional party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But three years later Mufti’s ties with the Congress party warmed up post the 2002 Assembly polls. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for the first time became the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir with the support of Congress and some independent MLAs. PDP had bagged 16 seats, while Congress won 20 seats.
The alliance with the parent party also worked in 2004 Lok Sabha polls when Mehbooba contested and won her first Lok Sabha election from south Kashmir.
In 2008, she contested and was returned as MLA from Wachi segment of Shopian in south Kashmir when PDP bagged 21 seats but lost power to NC-Congress coalition. In 2014, she yet again returned as Lok Sabha member from south Kashmir.
Mehbooba has never lost an election from South Kashmir so far.