Has the feisty Mehbooba been tamed by the BJP?

Has the feisty Mehbooba been tamed by the BJP?

JAMMU & KASHMIR

Srinagar, March 25: Finally, after two months of political banner between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the signs of having a coalition government restored in Jammu and Kashmir are clearly visible.

On Thursday evening, PDP legislators nominated their party president Mehbooba Mufti as chief minister, the post which has been vacant since the death in early January of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

Before Monday, when the PDP was yet to declare whether it wanted to form the government with the BJP or head for a new election, people either despised her style of politics or admired her for standing up to the BJP.

From her rise in J&K’s political landscape, it’s hard to believe that she will accept being dictated to by the Centre. Though she respected her father’s decisions, she is poles apart from him when it comes to leading.

“Mufti sahib was a resister, he resisted things. Mehboobaji is a person on the front; she is more of a worker. While she knows what is happening today, Mufti was more like what will happen tomorrow,” the party spokesperson and youth leader, Waheed Parra, told The Hindu.

A law graduate and single mother of two daughters, Ms. Mufti started her political journey as a Congress candidate in 1996 Assembly polls, when militant strikes were frequent. The first thing she did as a campaigner was to radically alter her wardrobe. She shunned jeans and T-shirts and adopted the traditional salwar-kameez and headscarf. She won from south Kashmir’s Bijbehera constituency, her home town, with a decent majority.

Later, she resigned from the Congress in 1999 to join her father, who was about to launch PDP. Three years later, in 2002, the PDP contested the assembly elections and won ample seats to stitch together a coalition government with Congress.

When  Mr. Sayeed was backbone behind the party, Ms. Mufti was winning the heart of the people through here Ideology. She accepted the way to talk with militants without asking them to first lay down arms. She also argued for tri-lateral dialogue process, demanding “talks must be held with the alienated Kashmiri people, and let the process of dialogue once begun throw up a solution.”

While Mr.Sayeed became the chief minister, Ms. Mufti oversaw the party affairs. By 2008, the coalition government fell apart with the outbreak of an agitation over an alleged illegal transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. As over 40 people were killed, PDP, a party that claimed to deliver a “healing touch” to the conflict-torn state, found itself at an odd spot.

At present, the party is in desperate need of seeing Ms. Mufti regain the confidence of the Kashmiri people, who are cold shouldering it over issues like the killing of a Kashmiri trucker by Bajrang Dal activists, the constant call from some BJP quarters to scrap Article 370 and the “intolerance debate” in the country.

Ms. Mufti’s ability to balance the multiple demands of governance and political survival will be crucial. Gul Wani, a political science professor, summed up Ms.Mufti’s situation : “She is caught between a rock and a hard place. If she withdraws it means she achieved nothing and went against what her father has done. If she continues, she has to deal with other kinds of troubles.”

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