Wish fulfilled, Mehbooba takes first step

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As demanded by BJP, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti has taken the first step towards government formation and got herself elected as leader of the legislative party.

56 year old Mehbooba Mufti is all set to become the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. PDP nominated Mehbooba, 56, as the legislature party leader and thus cleared decks for her to succeed her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died in January, as the chief minister of the state.

Sources said Mehbooba’s name to head the PDP in the state assembly was proposed by senior party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baigh and was seconded by his senior colleague Abdur Rehman Veeri. The decision came as the party held a crucial meeting of its lawmakers who had gathered to discuss the government formation in the state.

It was a constitutional requirement before Mehbooba stakes claim to power in India’s only Muslim majority state. Mufti, who visited her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s grave in Bijbehara in south Kashmir on Thursday, left for her hometown where she chaired the legislature party meet at her official residence in Gupkar.

The party is likely to make an announcement on the future of the alliance with BJP after the meeting. She presently represents south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. She will now have to get elected to either house of the state’s bicameral legislature and also resign her Lok Sabha seat.

Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government after Mehbooba’s father died in a Delhi hospital on January 7. She was tipped to take over the reins soon but she dragged her feet on continuing to ally with the BJP and wanted it to redraw the alliance terms that had father had authored. After remaining entrenched in their respective positions for more than two months, the two partners warmed up to each other following Mufti’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday in Delhi.

The PDP-BJP coalition, after 10 months rule from March 2015 to January this year, ran into rough weather following the death of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Sayeed breathed his last in a hospital in Delhi on 7 January, following which the state came under Governor’s Rule the next day.

Since then, the PDP leadership sought Confidence Building Measures and assurances on the implementation of the already agreed Agenda for Alliance from the Centre for forming the government again. Fresh efforts from PDP, which has 27 MLAs in the 87-member state Assembly, comes in the backdrop of repeated assertions made by BJP that it was committed to implementation of Agenda of Alliance.

The talks with BJP, which has 25 MLAs, had hit a roadblock last week when the party’s interlocutor Ram Madhav made it clear that no fresh demands would be entertained from PDP and that they had to decide whether they want to form a government based on the Agenda of Alliance document.

The toughening of stand came as a surprise for Mehbooba who boarded a plane on last Friday and returned to the state. PDP MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who has been playing a key role in the backchannel talks, had clarified that PDP had made no fresh demands and that there was a miscommunication from both sides leading to derailing of talks.

“Mehbooba Mufti would be legislative party leader of PDP and is now formally Chief Minister designate from our party,” senior PDP leader and MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig told reporters soon after the crucial legislative party meeting was held at Fairview residence of the PDP president at Gupkar.

“Mehbooba Mufti and BJP leader Sat Sharma will meet Governor N.N.Vohra to fix date for swearing-in ceremony,” Baig said. He added that “dye has been cast” and the state will in “near future” see a political government.

Asked about the conditions put forth before BJP for government formation, the MP said that “no new condition was set by PDP. “Agenda of Alliance is most comprehensive. There is no need to put any new condition. Ram Madhav is right that no new condition was put for government formation,” he said.

Former Education Minister and senior PDP leader, Naeem Akhtar said that all MPs, Rajya Sabha members, and MLAs attended the meeting while an independent MLA from Zanskar was also present in the meeting. Akhtar said that Abdul Rehman Veeri proposed the name of PDP president, which was supported by former Agriculture Minister, Altaf Bukhari. He said that the meeting was conducted by Member of Parliament Muzaffar Hussain Beigh while Tariq Hameed Karra delivered final speech in the meeting.

It needs to be mentioned here that PDP and BJP had formed an alliance on 1 March, last year with Sayeed as the Chief Minister. Both the sides had formed an Agenda of Alliance which sought to address internal and external dimension of the state.

PDP had toughened its stance after Sayeed’s demise by seeking concrete plans for the state’s development, including handing over of power projects to the state and vacation of land by the army before the coalition could be revived. Governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on 8 January after Mehbooba decided against taking over the reins after her father’s death.

 

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