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Mehbooba Mufti set to step in as J&K CM: Why the shoes are extra large

A law graduate, Mehbooba was fielded from the family home turf of Bijbehara. She was one of the two Congress candidates to win from Kashmir.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Updated: January 8, 2016 9:44 am
Mehbooba Mufti, J&K CM, Mufti Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti CM, Mehbooba Mufti J&K CM, New J&K CM, Mehbooba Mufti news Mehbooba Mufti (Source: Express file photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death has pushed the PDP into uncharted terrain for the second time in less than a year — the first time it tread cautiously was when it joined hands with the BJP to head a coalition. Sayeed’s daughter and likely successor Mehbooba Mufti faces challenges on several fronts.

Unlike other second-generation leaders of political dynasties, Mehbooba’s rise wasn’t exactly scripted by her father. She joined politics “accidentally” in 1996 when her father, who was then spearheading the Congress electoral battle in Kashmir, couldn’t find candidates to field. Mufti got his wife, two brothers-in-law and his daughter to contest. A law graduate, Mehbooba was fielded from the family home turf of Bijbehara. She was one of the two Congress candidates to win from Kashmir.

When Mufti decided to part ways with the Congress and form a regional party, Mehbooba was the main architect of that new experiment — the PDP appropriated the space between the integrationists and separatists. And when Mufti became Chief Minister of a PDP-Congress coalition in 2002, it was clear that Mehbooba had played an important role in fulfilling his dream. She was acknowledged as a politician in her own right.

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But today, Mehbooba’s problems lie elsewhere. Consider these:

* As a political activist, she was different from her father. She invested in the “soft separatist” rhetoric of the PDP to such a degree that even Delhi began to distrust her. Frequent visits to the families of slain militants was, for long, one of the main features of her public outreach.

And for months after the PDP aligned with the BJP last year, Mehbooba stayed away from the public because, as PDP insiders said, “she wasn’t comfortable explaining this alliance to her cadre”. When she began re-organising her party a few months ago, her public speeches primarily focused on the larger resolution of the Kashmir issue, confidence-building measures and the need for a thaw in Indo-Pak relations.

How does she reinvent herself now that she is no longer under the protective shadow of her father? Will she try to change or stay the course? It is clear that the PDP doesn’t have room for playing soft separatist politics while in a coalition with the BJP. Will Mehbooba accept it and try to reconfigure the politics of her party? Or, will she wait to exit from this “inconvenient” alliance? These questions preoccupy the PDP rank and file, aware that their popularity in their own strongholds has been hit because of the alliance with the BJP.

* Although Mehbooba was always an important leader of the PDP, Mufti was the glue that kept the party together. Unlike the National Conference, the PDP is an amalgam of leaders who have come from different political backgrounds, collecting under Mufti’s leadership. Can Mehbooba keep the PDP flock together? There is dissent within and two top leaders and the party’s Lok Sabha MPs are said to be in the disgruntled lot.

* Once she takes charge as chief minister, Mehbooba will be the leader of the coalition. Will she be able to withstand the pressure from partner BJP? The divide within J&K runs deep — the coalition has left Jammu entirely to the BJP as it battles a resurgent separatist sentiment in Kashmir.

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  1. A
    Anand Prakash
    Jan 8, 2016 at 3:02 am
    Our sympathies for the family. How great a statesman the Mufti was will have several interpretations. But what foxes most of us common people is the so called dynastic rule. The BJP has time and again derided the Congress for the supposed dynasty rule. but it bends the rules when it can get a slice of the pudding. How does the BJP reconcile itself with the dynastic rule among its allies - Shiv Sena in Maharasthra, now PDP in JandK, and the various sons and daughters who have been given tickets to contest elections?
    1. G
      Jan 7, 2016 at 11:49 pm
      Here goes out all India's dream of making JandK integral part of India. JandK will never become INDIA unless India invokes an internal civil war. Truth is Indians do not have the gut, and never had one.
      1. T
        Jan 8, 2016 at 12:42 am
        1. S
          Jan 8, 2016 at 8:11 am
          its time for Kejri to launch AAP in J and K
          1. A
            Jan 8, 2016 at 2:29 am
            Nothing will change.The media does not need to fabricate stories.She was there in the cabinet and she will be.As for her supporting the separatists there is nothing new and the BJP was aware while joining the PDP.We can't solve the Kashmir problem for the next 100 years
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