Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is ailing and currently in the intensive care unit of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, wants his daughter Mehbooba Mufti to take charge of the state in his place, say sources in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). However, Mehbooba Mufti’s ascent to the Chief Minister’s post will not be easy as the PDP’s coalition partner, specifically the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party is not keen on her as CM. The Sunday Guardian was the first newspaper to report that Mufti was unwell and that Mehbooba Mufti would likely take charge in place of her father (Mufti unwell, daughter may take over, 23August). Sources say that although Sayeed is recovering, his daughter has started giving directions to the state administration on various crucial issues. In the past few months, she has been also highly visible in the state and has been instrumental in taking some decisions on behalf of her father. Some PDP sources told this newspaper that Mehbooba Mufti will soon take over as the Chief Minister and claimed that she had a brief meeting with Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he went to AIIMS to visit Sayeed. “We don’t think that there should be any hurdles that will stop Mehbooba from taking over,” a senior PDP leader privy to the talks between the coalition partners told this newspaper.
But the state unit of the BJP thinks otherwise. The BJP had earlier agreed to keep Sayeed as Chief Minister for the full term of six years. But it is now reviving the demand for a rotational Chief Ministership as it does not want Mehbooba Mufti as CM for the full term. The state unit also wants more Cabinet berths. “We will insist with our Delhi leadership that it is time to redo our coalition arrangement with the PDP,” a senior state party functionary told this newspaper. Although the J&K government has been telling the media that Sayeed was stable and recovering and would join office soon, party sources are wondering whether he would be able to take on the daily pressures of his job. To avoid any hurdles, PDP may ensure that Mehbooba Mufti takes charge of the administration for the time being, while Sayeed remains the “symbolic head”. Party insiders said that they were waiting for the final nod to any such arrangement. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti currently represents the South Kashmir parliamentary seat. Even before his illness, Sayeed had made it clear that he would hand over the baton to his daughter.