By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar: Thousands offered the ‘Nimaz-e-Jinaza’ (funeral prayer) of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed here on Thursday, with his daughter Mehbooba Mufti likely to succeed him, party sources said.
More than 7,000 people, including VIPs, family members and party activists, offered the prayer at the huge Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium in the evening, hours after his body arrived from New Delhi where he passed away on Thursday morning.
Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar led the prayer after which the body was taken to Bijbehara, the hometown of the Muftis in Anantnag district where the final Nimaz-e-Jinaza would be offered before burial.
Two senior PDP leaders, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and Altaf Bukhari, earlier handed over a letter to Governor N.N. Vohra nominating Mehbooba Mufti as the leader of their legislature party — which would entitle her to assume charge as the new chief minister of the BJP-PDP coalition government.
PDP sources told IANS that the letter urged the governor to administer the oath of office to Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday evening after Sayeed’s last rites.
If and when she takes charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti will have to prove her majority on the floor of the 87-member assembly.
She will also have to get elected to the state assembly or be nominated to the state legislative council (upper house) within six months.
At present, she represents Anantnag in the Lok Sabha.
She would be the first woman chief minister of the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
Sayeed, who led the first coalition government in the state also involving the BJP, died in New Delhi on Thursday, 14 days after he was hospitalized.
Amid national mourning, his body was flown to Srinagar.
Sayeed, who was also India’s first Muslim home minister, passed away at 9.10 a.m. at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, three days after he was put on ventilator.
A severely diabetic, Sayeed “died due to bone marrow dysfunction”, a hospital spokesman told IANS. He was admitted on December 24 with fever as well as chest infection.
Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sayeed – who survived several attacks on him by militants – was chief minister the first time in 2002-05 in a coalition government with the Congress.
In his second stint, he allied with the BJP to become the chief minister in March last year after assembly elections produced a hung verdict.
President Pranab Mukherjee lauded his contribution to Jammu and Kashmir and India through long years of public service.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sayeed’s “exemplary leadership had a major impact on people’s lives”. Crediting him with “statesmanship”, he said: “Mufti Sahab provided a healing touch to Jammu and Kashmir.”
Sayeed was the third chief minister of the state to die in office — after G.M. Sadiq (1971) and Sheikh Abdullah (1982).
Born in Bijbehara on January 12, 1936 to a family of ‘Peers’, Sayeed tudied in Srinagar and at the Aligarh Muslim University before he joined politics in 1959.
After taking on the iconic Sheikh Abdullah, Sayeed became a cabinet minister in Jammu and Kashmir in 1972. Just three years later, he became head of the state unit of the Congress party.
He joined Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government in 1986 but quit the next year to throw his lot with V.P. Singh, who revolted against Gandhi’s leadership and went on to become the prime minister in 1989.
Sayeed became the home minister in the V.P. Singh government.
Within days, however, militants abducted his third daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, in Srinagar, forcing the V.P. Singh government to free five jailed guerrillas from Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1999, after a brief stint again in the Congress when P.V. Narasimha Rao became its leader, Sayeed and daughter Mehbooba Mufti floated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).