Mehbooba Mufti is likely to be the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir as she has emerged as the unanimous choice for the post following the death of incumbent, and her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today. “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 reporters.
However, Mehbooba’s ascent to the post of the Chief Minister would require approval of BJP, the junior coalition partner in the state government. Although no one from the BJP has so far opposed Mehbooba’s elevation, a final decision on the issue will be taken by the party high command. In the 87-member J and K Assembly PDP won 28 seats and BJP 25 while opposition National Conference got 15 and Congress 12.
Unlike the long delay in stitching the alliance with PDP last year, the BJP will have to make up its mind quickly with the Budget Session of the Assembly slated to begin on January 18. Mehbooba, who has assumed an image of a fiery leader, started her political career in 1996 by joining Congress along with her father.
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The 56-year-old mother of two daughters is also president of the PDP. She won her first Assembly election as Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara. Mehbooba played a key role in her father’s victory as Congress candidate in Lok Sabha elections of 1998 when Sayeed defeated NC’s Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir.
The Muftis, along with some key associates, floated their own regional party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. In 2002 Assembly elections, PDP bagged 16 seats and Sayeed for the first time became Chief Minister with the support of Congress and some independent MLAs.
In 2004, 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 was yet again returned as Lok Sabha member from south Kashmir. Later in November-December Assembly elections, PDP got 28 seats and in March 2015 it formed its second government in Jammu and Kashmir—this time in an alliance with BJP.
Mehbooba has never lost an election from South Kashmir so far.