March 26:PDP President and Chief Minister designate Mehbooba Mufti has risen from an ordinary village-girl to most-sought-after politician.
A law graduate Mehbooba, 56, holds the record of not losing any election from south Kashmir either in the assembly or the parliament. She, however, lost the parliamentary election from Srinagar when she contested against Omar Abdullah in 1999.
A hesitant politician initially, she plunged into electoral fray in 1996 from her home constituency of Bijbehara on the instance of her father who was then the tallest Congress leader of J&K. Mufti was finding it difficult to have able and winnable candidates to challenge National Conference in 1996, when the assembly elections were held first time after six years of bloodied militancy.
It was sheer luck for Mehbooba Mufti to plunge into politics as Mufti Sayeed wanted his son Tassaduq to contest the polls. Since Tassaduq was underage, Mufti picked Mehbooba from Bijbehara seat while his wife Gulshan was nominated from Pahalgam constituency. Mehbooba romped home but her mother lost bitterly.
Known for her oratory skills and connect with the grassroots, Mehbooba became the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in 1996 taking on the National Conference (NC) which had two-third majority in the Legislative Assembly.
Mehbooba was perhaps the first pro-India politician who broke the traditions and visited the victims of human rights violations during the height of militancy. She courted many controversies in late nineties when she visited the families of militants killed in encounters.
However, the soft-separatism card played by Mehbooba did not go well with the Congress given their national outreach. Mehbooba and her father developed differences with Congress which led to both of them resigning and forming the PDP in 1999.
A single mother of two daughters Iltija Javed and Irtiqa Javed, Mehbooba’s marriage with her cousin Javed Iqbal Shah ended in a divorce in 1987. She moved to her father’s home and raised her two daughters single handily. Her leadership qualities were at test given her role as a single mother in the conservative society. But she did not give up and raised two daughters with poise. Iltija went on to land a prestigious job at Indian High Commission in London.
Irtiqa is emulating her maternal uncle Tassaduq Mufti, an acclaimed cinematographer of Omkara fame, to train as screen writer in US. For all these years Mehbooba has mastered the art of taking the flock together. And that is why after she was nominated for the post of chief minister she wasted no time in thanking her leaders despite the speculations that some legislators were conspiring to defect.
“I am nothing without you. You are my strength”, said Mehbooba while thanking her party leaders for standing behind her after the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Even arch political rival and former chief Omar Abdullah was quick to congratulate her for being elected the leader of PDP legislature party.
“Congratulations to Mehbooba Mufti sahiba on being elected as the leader of the @jkpdp legislative party. I wish her well for the future”, Omar tweeted. Earlier Omar had lampooned her indecisiveness when she was dragging her feet over the government formation, “God help J&K if Mehbooba as CM is going to be as indecisive as she has been as Party President over the last 2 1/2 months”, he tweeted.