JEHANGIR ALI | 24 MARCH, 2016
Mehbooba Readies for CM Oath, 'Deal' Remains Secret
SRINAGAR: The Peoples Democratic Party legislators Thursday elected Mehbooba Mufti as the legislative party head in a crucial meeting here, paving way for her elevation as the first lady chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
Senior PDP leaders and party legislators huddled at the Fairview residence of Muftis in Srinagar on Thursday afternoon on Mehbooba’s call to decide on the future course of action following a breakthrough in talks with the BJP over government formation.
Seeking assurances from the Centre before continuing her party’s alliance with the rightwing party after her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s demise, Mehbooba met the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, a meeting which she had described as “positive”.
The BJP’s point-man of Kashmir, Ram Madhav, told reporters in New Delhi that the Prime Minister has promised “all help” from the Centre to the PDP president for running the state, brightening the prospects of the alliance which was almost written off last week when Mehbooba returned to Kashmir in a huff.
The PDP president Thursday morning paid a surprise visit to the grave of her father at Dara Shikoh Bagh in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town. Accompanied by her daughter, some relatives and party activists, she placed a fresh chadar on the grave and offered prayers before returning to Srinagar for the party meeting.
When the closed- door meeting started, Mehbooba briefed the party leaders about her meeting with the Prime Minister. Senior PDP leader, Abdul Rehman Veeri, proposed her name for the legislature party head and the legislators backed his choice, PDP’s spokesman, Naeem Akhtar, said.
After the meeting was over, the PDP president stood up and thanked the party leaders for choosing her as their leader, “I thank all of you for choosing me as the leader of PDP legislature party. You all are my strength,” she said in a brief speech.
Akhtar said the swearing in date will be decided after meeting with the Governor, “Following the nomination of Mehbooba Mufti as the PDP Legislature Party leader and the chief ministerial candidate, further constitutional requirement and the process for the government formation would be taken to the logical conclusion in consultation and coordination with the coalition partner BJP,” Akhtar, who was the education minister in PDP-BJP government, said.
Mehbooba, who presently represents south Kashmir's Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha, will now have to get elected to either house of the state's bicameral legislature and also relinquish her Lok Sabha seat. There are speculations that her cinematographer brother, Tassaduq Mufti, might contest from his sister’s seat.
Former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah said the PDP must clear the air on what has changed after Mehbooba’s meeting with the PM. “The party must answer why it made us wait for two and half months if they had to form the government without getting anything. What has changed that they are ready to form the government without getting anything from the Centre,” Omar said.
Meanwhile, the BJP, the alliance partner of the PDP, has also convened a meeting in Jammu on Friday which will be chaired by Madhav and union minister of state in PMO, Jitendra Singh, to seek the BJP legislators’ opinion on continuing the alliance. “We will take a decision after the meeting of MLAs tomorrow,” Singh said on government formation.
The meeting will be attended by all the BJP legislators and its top leadership in the state ahead of the party’s J&K President, Sat Sharma’s meeting with the J&K Governor NN Vohra where he is likely to pledge support to the PDP for government formation.
Vohra has also called the PDP president for meeting at Raj Bhawan in Jammu which will formally seal the alliance between the two parties. An official spokesperson said two letters were dispatched separately to the PDP and the BJP chiefs, intimating them to come up for meeting with Vohra.
"The meeting is scheduled on Friday, March 25. The meetings with the two leaders have been scheduled to be held separately,” the spokesperson said.