With the budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly set to begin and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed still in hospital, PDP MP Mehbooba Mufti may be sworn in as chief minister soon, sources said.
The change of guard — which would make Mehbooba the first woman CM of the state — could take place if Sayeed’s condition does not improve in a week, the sources added. Some BJP and PDP leaders went to Delhi Tuesday to ask about his health.
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AIIMS doctors Tuesday said Sayeed had been put on respiratory support in the ICU, and his condition is “critical but stable”. Sources said the 79-year-old has developed a respiratory infection for which he has been put on antibiotics and antifungals.
AIIMS spokesperson Dr Amit Gupta said, “Sayeed is hemodynamically stable but requires respiratory support. His condition warrants close monitoring.”
Sayeed was admitted in AIIMS on December 24, and there has been no delegation of powers of the CM to anyone, including Deputy CM Nirmal Singh. All the ministers in the PDP-BJP coalition government have been working in unison in the absence of the CM, but such a situation cannot continue for long, a PDP leader said. The budget session begins on January 18 and the treasury benches would not like to face the opposition headless, the leader added.
During his last press conference in Jammu in November, Sayeed had hinted at Mehbooba succeeding him. “She is a grassroots leader and it has been due to her efforts that the PDP got a good number of seats and the party formed the government. She has better connect with the people and deserves to be chief minister, but it would be a collective decision,” he had said.
When contacted, Deputy CM Dr Nirmal Singh said, “We wish Sayeed speedy recovery. As far as the change of guard in the government is concerned, we have not received any call from PDP.”
Cabinet spokesman and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar said, “As of now there is no such plan. But of course in the long term, she (Mehbooba) would be CM. When a decision in this regard is taken, she is the first and unanimous choice. She is the soul of the party.”
A senior PDP leader said a senior state minister who is close to the Muftis had met a Union minister — a senior BJP leader — in Delhi last week to apprise him of the situation. The former reportedly took up the issue of Mehbooba’s elevation.
(— With ENS, Delhi)