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JEHANGIR ALI | 8 JANUARY, 2016

MEHBOOBA MUFTI TO TAKE OVER AS CM

Mehbooba Mufti to take over


NEW DELHI: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti is set to take over as the first women Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following the demise of her father and incumbent CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at AIIMS yesterday.

Mehbooba, who is credited for building her party from scratch, will have to get support of the coalition partner, the BJP, before the formal oath-taking ceremony is held, which is likely to take place at SKICC here. The BJP legislature party will meet today to decide on the issue of extending support to Mehbooba.

“We have called a meeting of party legislators and other senior leaders today. Whatever the outcome of the meeting will be conveyed to them (PDP),” BJP newly elected state president, Sat Sharma, told The Citizen.

Senior PDP leaders including Mufti's aide, Altaf Bukhari and Muzaffar Hussain Beg, reportedly met Governor NN Vohra yesterday to apprise him about the crisis in the party after Mufti's death, while extending their support to Mehbooba for becoming the next Chief Minister of the state.

According to the protocol, Mehbooba can take oath only after the BJP, which has 25 members in the 87-member Assembly, gives letter of support to the Governor. The BJP has already made it clear that the change of guard is PDP's "internal matter", although there are leaders in the right-wing party who may not be comfortable working with Mehbooba.

According to experts, if the PDP president is not quickly sworn in as the new Chief Minister, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will slip into a constitutional crisis. A top PDP leader said Mehbooba is "insisting on not taking oath" till the end of mourning days in which case the Governor Vohra will have no option but to impose a short spell of Governor's rule.

"When the head of the council of ministers (Chief Minister) in the state dies in office, the council also ceases to exist. The governor can assume the reins of the state for six months in case of a constitutional crisis," Zaffar Shah, a constitutional expert based in Srinagar said.

Reports said senior BJP leader Ram Madhav, who stitched up the alliance with the PDP's Haseeb Drabu following the hung verdict in assembly elections in 2014, is expected to arrive in Srinagar to put the process of new government formation in motion.

Widely seen as a grassroots politician, Mehbooba wrestled her way through the mud of turmoil to carve out a formidable alternative to National Conference, then J&K's only regional party, in a state's beleaguered by years of political unrest.

Within just two decades, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), founded by Mufti in 1999, planked itself on the agenda of soft-separatism and porous borders between the divided Kashmir, grew from strength to strength; the party's share of seats in the state legislature has grown consistently.

As Chief Minister, Mehbooba will be free of the baggage, carried by her late father, of bringing the right-wing party to power in the state, but she may have to face a tough time in keeping her party flock intact with senior leaders like Lok Sabha MPs, Muzaffar Hussain Beg and Tariq Hamid Karra openly voicing dissent against the coalition government functioning.

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