January 2016 News

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Ill, Mehbooba Mufti Set To Be Jammu And Kashmir CM

6 January 2016
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: The stage could be set for PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to be the next chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir with the party and its ally BJP reaching a consensus over the matter following the sudden illness and hospitalization of her father CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Sayeed is currently hospitalized in Delhi and is understood to be very critical. Though no decision has been taken as of now, his daughter Mehbooba is seen as the 'logical choice' as his successor as chief minister, said senior BJP sources. It is understood that BJP has been informally sounded out over Mehbooba becoming the CM as it is felt that even if the Mufti's health improved, he may find it difficult to handle the cares of office. With a session of the assembly approaching on January 18, a decision may have to be taken soon. BJP has no objections to Mehbooba's candidature but might seek some ministerial adjustments at the time of a change of guard. Though PDP senior leader and government spokesman Naeem Akhtar on Wednesday said rumours about chief minister's deteriorating health were incorrect but sources said that the Mufti is on ventilator and his lungs are not functioning properly. However, Akhtar agreed that there is a complete consensus in the party on Mehbooba Mufti becoming chief minister whenever there is a change of guard. 'Our first concern is Mufti sahab's health, not change of guard,' Naeem said. 'As of now, there is no such move. But, obviously, Mufti Sahab has himself been saying that Mehbooba Mufti is the right person to lead. There is a complete consensus in the party on it because she is the right leader as she represents aspirations of the cadre and is an undisputed leader. She has been voice and faith of PDP,' he said. However, another senior PDP leader and minister, who did not want to be named said Mehbooba taking over the reins of the state government could be on the cards even if her father's health improved. The 79 year old Mufti may not be able to handle the demands of office and Mehbooba might still be CM soon, the minister said. The 76 year old CM has not been well for some time and is currently admitted in the ICU at AIIMS. Interestingly, the attendance in the civil secretariat here has been thin as most ministers and officers have not been in office with the Mufti in hospital since December 24, 2015 . Mufti Mohammad had last month on November 13 hinted at Mehbooba Mufti becoming the next chief minister in future in view of his reported prostate ailment. During a press conference last month he had said that Mehbooba Mufti, was better connected with the people and deserves to be the chief minister of the state. 'I did not get time to meet people. She has better access to the people and party workers than me and she understands their problems. So she deserves it (to be chief minister),' Mufti said. 'I only sit in the office but she works in the field,' Mufti had said on November 13 here. Mehbooba is seen to have worked to consolidate the PDP base in the Kashmir valley. She has been visiting militancy hit families. 'She would particularly visit the aggrieved family whose son or head of the family got lost in the militancy related incidents across Kashmir ever since PDP came in to existence in 2000,' a source said.