On April 4, Mehbooba to wear Sayeed’s shoes

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56 year old Mehbooba Mufti, a mother of two, is scheduled to take oath as 13th chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4 in the state’s winter capital Jammu.

Mehbooba is eldest of four siblings- two sisters and one brother. She would be the first woman chief minister of the country’s only Muslim majority state, heading an alliance of the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the centrist, right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mehbooba fought her first elections from the ancestral Bijbehara (Anantnag) assembly constituency in 1996. She fought another assembly election in 2002 from the Wachi (Shopian) constituency and her first Lok Sabha election from south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency in 2004. She again stood for the Lok Sabha and won from the same constituency in 2014. She has never lost an election in her 20-year political career.

Governor N.N.Vohra on Saturday invited PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti to form the government in the state, stated an official handout. The swearing-in will take place at 11 am on April 4 at Raj Bhavan in Jammu. Earlier, her party had announced that she would take oath as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4. And the decision has been reportedly conveyed to Governor N.N. Vohra.

She was instrumental in resurrecting her late father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s political career when he formed the PDP and decided to challenge the well-entrenched regional National Conference (NC) on its own turf. Those close to her say despite her no-nonsense pragmatic approach to politics, Mehbooba has always maintained a strong link with the party’s ground-level workers.

It was because of her knowledge about the ground situation that Mufti sahib would always say his daughter is more connected to ground than him, said a senior PDP leader. Despite the fact that her political debut happened by fire when separatist violence was at its peak in Jammu and Kashmir, this is going to be her first innings at governance.

The oath-taking ceremony is likely to be a low-key affair according to sources in both the PDP and the BJP. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M.Venkaiah Naidu and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh will also be present during the sworn-in ceremony.

Mufti also called up former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to invite him for her swearing-in ceremony scheduled on April 4. “Very gracious of Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba to phone and invite me to her oath taking ceremony. I look forward to being there on the 4th,” National Conference working president Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Mehbooba’s sisters, Rubiaya Sayeed and Mehmood Sayeed, and brother Tassaduq Hussain Mufti are also attending the function as her family members. Top sources here said both the PDP and the BJP have decided to repeat the same faces in the council of ministers that was headed by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed before he passed away.

Mehbooba had been seeking assurances from the central government on implementation of agenda of alliance and the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) framed by the two parties last year. However, her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 22 ended the over two-month-long deadlock on government formation in the state.

 

Mehbooba had described her meeting with the Prime Minister as ‘positive’, saying she was satisfied. The BJP had sought equal number of portfolios as the PDP. In the earlier Cabinet, the PDP had 11 portfolios while the BJP had seven.

Mehbooba will reach Jammu tomorrow, a day ahead of oath taking and will hold discussions with party leaders and Leader of BJP Legislative Party Dr Nirmal Singh on composition of the ministry and distribution of portfolios. Mehbooba will also hold a meeting with party leadership to restructure PDP in wake of new government formation.

In this direction, a joint communiqué was sent to Governor N.N. Vohra by the PDP and BJP. The BJP also stamped the date of oath taking as April 4 at a meeting of its party leadership headed by National General Secretary Ram Madhav, who arrived here last evening for the meeting.

The core group of the party met at the residence of Dr Nirmal Singh and finalised the list of ministers and portfolios. Later talking to reporters before flying to New Delhi last night in a special plane, Madhav said that all issues between the two parties have been sorted out during the three-day long discussions between leaders of the two parties.

Madhav said it is good that Mehbooba Mufti is going to take over as the first woman Chief Minister of the state. “A clean, good and development-oriented government is our priority,” he said. The PDP and BJP had staked claim for government formation on March 26, two days after Mehbooba was elected as PDP’s Legislature Party Leader.

After the death of her father, who headed the PDP-BJP coalition government for 10 months from March 1, 2015, until his death on January 7 this year, Mehbooba had been reluctant to take over as Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP coalition government.

However, her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 22 ended the over two-months-long deadlock on government formation in the state. Jammu and Kashmir was put under Governor’s Rule on January 8, a day after then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed passed away in New Delhi. PDP and BJP had staked claim for government formation on March 26, two days after Mehbooba was elected as PDP’s legislature party leader.

Mehbooba, had earlier met Governor N.N. Vohra and staked claim to form the government with the support of 25 MLAs of the BJP. The PDP has 27 MLAs in the 87-member state Assembly.

 

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