Mehbooba Mufti, 56, has become the first woman chief minister of J&K, as she now heads the collation government of the PDP and the BJP in the second innings of their partnership
Aasha Khosa | April 4, 2016
It was a quirk of fate that made her foray into the tumultuous politics of J&K. Mehbooba has grown into an astute politician and a charismatic leader in 20 years. However, as she renews her vows with the BJP and embarks on a new phase of her career, Mehbooba’s journey is unlikely to be smooth
Some of the key challenges for her are:
Her image: Mehbooba Mufti’s image as a hardliner and pro-Kashmir leader has brought her mixed blessings. The green dupatta, that she was seen covering her head with while taking oath as chief minister, is often seen as a deliberate fashion-cum political statement from the Kashmiri leader. Though she defends her over use of green dupatta by claiming that it is the colour of her party flag, this is seen by her rivals as her support for Islamic fundamentalists, whose increasing presence is often linked to rise of pro-Pakistan insurgency in Kashmir. Wearing the party colours on the sleeves – virtually, in this case - has made Mehbooba popular in Kashmir; but at the same time this symbolism has apparently put off others from getting closer to the PDP.
READ: Mehbooba Mufti: Daddy's girl comes of age
Mehbooba will have to surely work on her image to sustain her career as a J&K politician.
Party: Mehboob’s party PDP has not been in great shape since the demise of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January7 this year. While Mehbooba was grieving the loss of her father and mentor and refusing to make up her mind on becoming chief minister for nearly three months, the PDP went through a period of uncertainty. A couple of senior leaders threw tantrums and hinted at leaving the party. The general perception is that PDP is most prone to poaching by rivals and internal division in crisis. Mehbooba desperately needs to keep her flock together.
BJP: The Hindutva party has played hardball with Mehbooba Mufti so far. Unlike her father who enjoyed an image of being a good administrator and a political strategist, Mehbooba’s name only evokes smirks in the BJP. Besides, the party has its own agenda of looking after the Hindu majority Jammu region, which often puts the PDP in embarrassing positions. Though Mufti Sayeed would call the coalition as a political agreement to honour the aspiration of people of two regions of the state, the coalition partners have not enjoyed the best of relations and often worked at cross purposes.
Centre: The central government needs to open its purse strings for Mehbooba Mufti to gain credibility and not create problems for her. The state, like many other hill and small states, lacks resources and is heavily dependent upon the centre for financial help. There is a feeling in Kashmir that Narendra Modi government’s repeated claims of wanting to help Kashmir after last year’s devastating floods, was just a pep talk.
Opposition: The opposition parties like National Conference and Congress are ready to take on Mehbooba Mufti and show no mercy to her. In fact, former chief minister Omar Abdullah has been posing uncomfortable questions [like if she would say Bharat mata ki jai] to Mehbooba on twitter. His attacks are only going to sharpen in the coming days. Congress is also smiling, as they are already playing on the contradictions of the two parties and predicting a mid-term poll in the border state shortly.
Mehbooba Mufti, the chief minister, will also have to take a stand against fundamentalists and militants – something she had avoided so far.