By Sheikh Qayoom
Jammu: The option of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti taking over the reins of power “is not even being discussed because the daughter is totally focused on the well being of her father”, senior Jammu and Kashmir minister Naeem Akhtar asserted Wednesday.
Akhtar, however, added in the eventuality of the ailing chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, being advised rest by doctors, Mehbooba was the obvious choice.
Sayeed has been battling a severe chest infection in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) New Delhi for the last 14 days.
Akhtar also said Sayeed has shown signs of improvement since the team of senior doctors attending on him changed the line of treatment after identifying the source of his chest infection.
The veteran Kashmiri politician would be 80 on January 12 and everybody wishes him speedy recovery.
PDP workers have been organizing prayer meetings in Kashmir for Sayeed’s well being.
On Tuesday, a big prayer meeting was held at the shrine of Kashmir’s patron Sufi saint, Sheikh Nooruddin Wali, known reverently as ‘Nund Rishi’ at Charar-e-Sharief town in Badgam district.
The budget session of state legislature begins here on January 18 and the ruling PDP-BJP coalition would like the leader of the house to be present during this crucial session.
Constitutional experts say the presence of Sayeed during the legislature session is not mandatory and it can go on in his absence.
The state has a deputy chief minister who belongs to the BJP and as per precedence, Nirmal Singh can look after the day-to-day affairs of governance in the absence of the chief minister.
Yet, the continuing suspense over who is running the affairs of state has caused an administrative inertia as everybody in the ruling coalition and the top echelons of power is discussing only one thing – would Sayeed be able to discharge his duties after he recovers from his present ailment?
“If power has to be handed over to Mehbooba Mufti a constitutional process has to be followed, renowned constitutional expert Zafar Shah said.
“First, the PDP legislature party will have to elect her as its leader. Then a letter will have to be sent to the state governor by her claiming a majority in the 87-member.
“This letter will have to be accompanied by a letter of support by the BJP allies of the PDP in the assembly or else, the PDP can elect her as the leader of the legislature party and the governor would administer her oath of office as acting chief minister asking her to prove majority on the floor of the house within 15 days.
“Since she is presently not a member of either the legislative assembly or the legislative council, Mehbooba Mufti will have to either get elected to the assembly or be nominated as a member of the council,” Shah added.
Shah also said there is no provision of a caretaker chief minister in the state constitution.
“Nobody can presently suggest taking over to Mehboobaji since she is attending her ailing father and any suggestion to decide on future governance would be breaking bad news to the daughter”, said a senior PDP minister who wished anonymity.