Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir breathed his last and departed for another journey. He was a great leader who strived for the state’s autonomy within the frame work of Indian constitution. He was one such leader from Jammu and Kashmir, who showed great respect for his state and as an Indian always cared for the welfare of Kashmir. At least now the two countries should bury their hatchet and coordinate their efforts to combat terrorism. Mufti Sayeed might have disappointed his admirers outside Jammu & Kashmir when he joined hands with the BJP to form the government in the state, still he remained as a hero for Muslims. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed dies a true Indian Muslim who looked at the Kashmir problem through the prism of Indian ethos and believed in re-writing the destiny of troubled Jammu and Kashmir with out-of-box ideas.
Mehbooba Mufti, the daughter of the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, will take over the reins as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Mehbooba, 56, will be the first woman chief minister of the state. The two-time CM changed the political course of marginalised mainstream politics in Kashmir, pitted against the wide-base separatist movement. Sayeed received Vajpayee at the Srinagar airport and insisted that he accompany him in his car up to the venue. No one knows till date what transpired between the two in the 40-minute ride. Later, Vajpayee’s speech surprised his National Security Advisor (NSA) and PMO officials when he extended a hand of unconditional friendship to Pakistan.
Sayeed was never trusted by Kashmiri residents the way he wanted them to trust him. He could only manage to win the Kashmir polls twice between 1962 and 1967 and his stint with anti-National Conference forces like G.M. Sadiq and Mir Qasim earned him the wrath of the NC till he won assembly polls first time in 2002 from Pahalgam constituency. Mufti was even under the attack of right wing politicians until he aligned his party to power with BJP. Then also Sayeed tried his level best to repay his image as a secular leader. Sayeed believed in resolving Kashmir through his slogan ‘healing touch’ and ‘self-rule’. While, he saw Indian constitution as the cornerstone of his ‘healing touch’ policy and his self-rule was embedded in the federal growth of India. Mufti was also brain behind the April 19, 2003 speech of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that came in the backdrop of growing hostility with Pakistan brewed by the Kargil war and the Parliament attack.
Sayeed may have served as Union Tourism Minister in the Congress rule and much-critiqued as the Home Minister during the V.P Singh government, for releasing his kidnapped daughter Rubiya Sayeed on December 8, 1989 — which he claimed in private conversations being the only regret — the man always eyed to change the complex polity of Jammu and Kashmir. Sayeed would have been the youngest chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir had the Congress not withdrawn support to the National Conference (NC) in 1975.
Arch rival of National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Sayeed’s biggest asset was his invincible patience. He first realized his dream to head the state in 2002 where he changed the political course of marginalised mainstream politics in Kashmir pitted against wide-base separatist movement. He not only brought legitimacy to mainstream leaders but also vowed to make them stakeholders between India and Pakistan.
According to sources, the BJP is on board for Mehbooba to take over and there is consensus in the coalition. Decks are clear for her to be the first ever woman chief minister for Jammu and Kashmir. Although, no one from the BJP has so far opposed Mehbooba’s elevation, a final decision on the issue will be taken by the party high command. In the 87-member J&K Assembly PDP won 28 seats and BJP 25 seats while opposition National Conference got 15 and Congress 12. Mehbooba, who has assumed an image of a fiery leader, started her political career in 1996 by joining Congress along with her father. The 56-year-old mother of two daughters is also president of the PDP. She won her first Assembly election as Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara. Mehbooba played a key role in her father’s victory as Congress candidate in Lok Sabha elections of 1998 when Sayeed defeated NC’s Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir.
The Muftis, along with some key associates, floated their own regional party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. In 2002 Assembly elections, PDP bagged 16 seats and Sayeed for the first time became Chief Minister with the support of Congress and some independent MLAs. In 2004, Mehbooba contested and won her first Lok Sabha election, from south Kashmir. In 2008, she contested and was returned as MLA from Wachi segment of Shopian in south Kashmir when PDP bagged 21 seats but lost power to NC-Congress coalition. In 2014, she was yet again returned as Lok Sabha member from south Kashmir. Later in November-December Assembly elections, PDP got 28 seats and in March 2015 it formed its second government in Jammu and Kashmir—this time in an alliance with BJP.
Mehbooba has never lost an election from South Kashmir so far. In 1989, within few days of taking office as the Union Minister for Home Affairs, his third daughter Rubaiya was kidnapped by terrorists. She was released in exchange for the release of five militants. Mohammad Sayeed survived several attacks in his life by Kashmiri separatists who oppose Indian rule. A great leader has strived for the state’s autonomy within the frame work of Indian constitution.