JAMMU/SRINAGAR: Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, 79, on Friday hinted his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, could replace him as the state’s first woman head of the government.
“As far as Mehbooba’s anointment is concerned, it would be a collective decision,” said Sayeed, who would be 80 in January.
He heaped praise on his daughter and credited her with consolidating their People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s base.
“We increased our base not because of me but Mehbooba as I find very little time for the party affairs,” he said.
He said his daughter had done a good job during assembly elections last year. “It was due to her efforts that PDP got good number of seats and the party formed the government,” he said.
Sayeed called Mehbooba a grassroots leader and said she works hard on the ground as PDP chief. “She is a Lok Sabha member and became a legislator first in 1996,” he said
He cited her better connect with the people and added Mehbooba deserves to be the chief minister.
He called the possible succession “part of democracy” and said people of Jammu & Kashmir have shown “good level of faith and satisfaction” over Mehbooba’s leadership.
“I do not get time to meet people. She has better access to the people and party workers than me and she understands their problems,” said Sayeed, who is rumoured to be ailing and likely to go abroad for treatment. “I only sit in office but she works on the ground.”
The chief minister insisted Mehbooba enjoyed acceptance across the state. “She is in constant touch with people of the state and it is due to her deliberations, PDP has gained faith of masses in Jammu region also,” said Sayeed.
Sources in BJP said they have sought finance and roads and buildings portfolio as a quid pro quo to the PDP in case they want Mehbooba to become the alliance’s chief minister.
Sayeed said a final decision on the succession would be taken only after taking all party leaders on board while brushing aside rebellion of PDP parliamentarians Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and Tariq Hamid Karra.
“There is dissent in every party. Dissent is the essence of democracy,” he said. He added Beigh is a senior leader, who every right to speak.
Beigh and Karra had boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Srinagar on November 7, where he had announced Rs 80,000 crore package for the state.
Sayeed gave a break-up of the package while describing it wholesome. “I have been in politics for long and have never had this much of satisfaction after having alliance with the BJP.”
He said Modi has given great financial devolutionary powers and every state has got its share.
Sayeed reiterated reconciliation with Pakistan should not be stopped. “There is no other option than reconciliation with Pakistan…only it will help peace in the region.”
He said it is not necessary that the Prime Minister concurs with all his expectations. “But I will not give up my efforts as good relations between India and Pakistan is my dream.”