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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mehbooba likely to take over as CM before Budget session

Baig called to Delhi; Ministers, BJP leaders, CS, DGP too in union capital 

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Jan 5: With Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s condition deteriorating in an ICU at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the process of installing his daughter Mehbooba Mufti as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is now underway in New Delhi.

Highly placed BJP sources in New Delhi confirmed to STATE TIMES that a process to clear the decks for Ms Mufti's installation as Chief Minister of the politically sensitive State had begun. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP's National General Secretary Ram Madhav and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh, sources revealed, were in the loop.

Even as no timeline of the transfer of power to Ms Mufti, who would be the State’s first woman Chief Minister, had been fixed until Tuesday evening, sources said there was a "stark likelihood" of her taking over before commencement of the Budget session of the State legislature on January 18th. Currently, PDP's President and Lok Sabha member from south Kashmir, Ms Mufti would have the option of becoming a member of either House of J&K legislature in six months of her taking oath as Chief Minister.

Now 56-year-old, and a mother of two daughters, Ms Mufti made her debut in politics in 1996 when she contested and won her first Assembly election as Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara where her father Mufti Mohammad had repeatedly lost all of his elections to National Conference. In 1983, Mufti was Congress party's candidate from the twin segments of Bijbehara and Homeshalibugh. NC's candidates defeated him on both. Later, he won Assembly election from RS Pora, Jammu.

Mehbooba played a key role in her father's victory as Congress candidate in Lok Sabha elections of 1998 when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed defeated NC's Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir. However, a year later Mufti Sayeed lost to NC's Ali Mohammad Naik. Mufti, alongwith Mehbooba and some key associates floated his own regional party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. In 2002 Assembly elections, PDP bagged 16 seats and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became for the first time Chief Minister with the support of Congress and some independent MLAs.

In 2004 Ms Mufti 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, Ms Mufti 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 and the separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajjad Lone. 80-year-old Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had previously also functioned as Union Minister of Tourism and Union Home Minister, was appointed as Chief Minister for full term of 6 years.

On December 22, CM developed some health complications during a daylong tour of Srinagar city. He was shifted to Nehru Guest House for a night but next day flown to New Delhi and admitted in AIIMS. A few days back, his condition improved to the extent that he called some people, including his Principal Secretary BB Vyas on telephone twice to discuss some urgent matters of the government. However on Saturday, his condition began deteriorating again.

"His recovery would be a miracle but even if, God willing, he recovers, he would not be in a position to deliver as head of the government. Yes, we have deliberated on it and decided to support Ms Mufti as the next Chief Minister", a senior BJP leader and Minister said.

PDP leaders invariably maintained that neither Ms Mufti nor any other leader had thought about it. "We are very much hopeful that Mufti Sahab will recover soon. Whatever decision will be taken by him only", said a senior PDP leader, insisting to be anonymous. However, insiders in the top PDP rungs revealed to STATE TIMES that Ms Mufti on Tuesday called her senior colleague and Lok Sabha member from north Kashmir Muzaffar Hussain Baig to New Delhi for "some urgent deliberations". It is likely that Mr Baig, who arrived in New Delhi from Jammu in the evening, may initiate the process and nominate Ms Mufti as the next party leader and Chief Minister.

A number of senior PDP and BJP leaders, including Education Minister Naeem Akhtar, arrived in the Union capital and enquired about the health of Chief Minister. Chief Secretary Braj Raj Sharma and Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar also landed in New Delhi, though both attended scheduled official meetings with the Central officials.


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