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Mehbooba Mufti’s Journey from Foot Soldier to J&K Chief Minister

While Mehbooba may have resurrected herself as the Mufti scion, her CM stint would be fraught with many challenges.

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Like the other political dynasties in South Asia, the Muftis have made their mark on the political landscape of Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmir knows two Muftis. The first was the patriarch, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The other is his daughter and political heir, Mehbooba Mufti.

Mufti Sayeed will be remembered by the people as “Delhi’s Man in Kashmir” and the “Healing Touch” leader. His daughter, the dauntless foot soldier of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has come of age to become J&K’s first woman chief minister.

This is the story of the woman who donned the green pheran to reach out to soothe the bleeding hearts in Kashmir – from militant-associated families to conflict victims, brutalised by the use of force.

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Early Life

Born (May 22, 1959) at Akhran Nowpora, she went to Srinagar’s Presentation Convent, graduated from state-run Women’s College in Jammu in English literature, and then law, from the University of Kashmir.

When Mufti was the state Congress president in the early 1980s, the family resided in a government flat in the posh Tulsi Bagh area of Srinagar. Mehbooba married Javid Ahmed, a businessman from Bijbehara, in 1983. On Mehbooba’s wedding day, Indira Gandhi, who was then the Prime Minister, served Javid at the Tulsi Bagh reception.

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While Mehbooba may have resurrected herself as the Mufti scion, her CM stint  would be fraught with many challenges.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti during the fateha of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, at Dara Shikov Park in Anantnag’s Bijbehara town on January 15, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
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Snapshot

Political Ups and Downs

  • Many PDP loyalists and those close to the Mufti family say that Mehbooba was a quick learner in politics.
  • Horror of Mufti’s daughter’s abduction was followed by the PDP emerging as a new political force in the state in the late 90s.
  • Since early 2000, the party has used the plank of ‘soft separatism’ to reach out to the Kashmiris.
  • The 10-month BJP-PDP rule saw various ups and downs, the coalition ceased to exist with the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
  • One of the toughest challenges for Mehbooba would be balancing ties with the alliance partner, BJP.
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Entry to Politics

Many PDP loyalists and those close to the Mufti family say that Mehbooba was a quick learner in politics. In the early 1990s, the Mufti family underwent a horrifying experience, when Mufti’s youngest daughter, Rubayia Sayeed, was abducted. After a few years, in 1996, Mehbooba won her first election on a Congress ticket from Bijbehara. The 1996 election was believed to have been rigged by the central government of the time.

With Mehbooba’s 1996 win, rumours were rife for the next three years that the valley would have an alternative to the National Conference. In July 1999, rumours turned into reality, and PDP emerged as a new political force in the state.

While the Centre saw the PDP’s emergence as an alternate political grouping, many in Kashmir believe that the party’s creation was the handiwork of security agencies.

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While Mehbooba may have resurrected herself as the Mufti scion, her CM stint  would be fraught with many challenges.
Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, along with her father and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in Srinagar, November 23, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
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PDP From 1999-2002

From 1999 to 2002, Mufti Sayeed and his daughter tried to reach out to Kashmiris. This was PDP’s first “healing touch” period. The party’s ‘soft separatism’ was their plank to reach out to the Kashmiris.

This was a period of intense learning for Mehbooba. She was the face of the new political party, leading from the front, visiting almost every village wherever any militant or civilian was killed.

On the ground, nothing concrete was achieved by the PDP government during its first tenure from 2002 to 2005. The party did not score high on achievements in 2015 either during Mufti Sayeed’s second stint as CM.

In the mid-2000s, Kashmir was relatively peaceful. Experts and political analysts believed that all was well with Kashmiris now, and “peace” had returned. In 2008, PDP governed J&K with the Congress at its coalition partner. But soon enough, the partnership collapsed, following the killing of 67 persons in police firing at Srinagar’s Eidgah ground.

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The Dalliance with BJP

From 2008 to 2014, Kashmir went through one of its worst phases of its history. Between 2008 and 2010, more than 200 people were killed. The NC-Congress coalition government was targeted for nepotism and corruption. The economy was in the doldrums and moral despondency high. In 2014, the state saw the worst floods in a century.

With assembly elections due in November-December 2014, the PDP once again was all set to give a hard time to the two old parties, NC and Congress.

The BJP, riding high on the NaMo wave, won 25 seats in Jammu, while the PDP won 28 seats in Kashmir, throwing up a fractured mandate. It took the two parties two months to negotiate and form a post-poll alliance. Although their 10-month rule saw various ups and downs, the coalition ceased to exist with the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

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While Mehbooba may have resurrected herself as the Mufti scion, her CM stint  would be fraught with many challenges.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti interacts with the family members of the victims of cross border firing in RS Pora sector of J&K, 3 September, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
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Mehbooba Resurrected

With the passing away of Mufti Sayeed, Mehbooba was once again in the limelight. She has experience on her side but on the downside, she has no administrative experience. One usually starts as a minister of state or some other administrative post. Mehbooba’s portfolio does not boast any of this. PDP’s coalition with BJP has also maligned the former’s image in Kashmir, and the road ahead does not appear easy for her.

Mehbooba has to work as CM at a time when she is faced with adversities. First, she has to manage a conflict-ridden state. Second, the BJP has dented her party’s image. Third, senior PDP members are not happy with her for the party’s alliance with the BJP. Fourth, the support of her team is now being questioned. Fifth, she has to stay in the Centre’s good books if she wants to govern the state and receive funds.

With such heavy odds stacked against her, how will Mehbooba govern this volatile state?

(The writer is a freelance journalist.)

Also Read:
Did Modi Go Against BJP’s Big Guns to Pitch for Mehbooba Mufti?
Mufti Sahib Leaves a Huge Void In Jammu and Kashmir

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