Mufti’s daughter inherits a legacy built on consensus and compromise

By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi, Jan. 8 (ANI): Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away on January 7, while being the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, a job he always wanted. His funeral was well attended by the people from all walks of society, including politicians from almost all political parties.

Mufti’s call for a ‘healing touch’ in Kashmir, built bridges across the political spectrum. In his last political rally in Kashmir, Mufti asked the people of his state to support the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in their quest for peace.

Mufti had a chequered political career. I had the opportunity of interacting with him over the years, even as far back as in the seventies when he was in the Congress Party and had hoped to be the youngest Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. A genial person, he would meet with the government officers and speak to us about Jammu and Kashmir politics.

During those days, Indira Gandhi had a complex relationship with the Abdullahs. The Beg -Parthasarathy agreement, as it was then known, ushered Sheikh Abdullah back as the chief minister and Indira Gandhi brought Mufti Mohammed Sayeed as a minister in the Central Government.

When Indira Gandhi lost power in 1977, the elections were held for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, and Sheikh Abdullah revived the National Conference and won a decisive majority.

When Sheikh Abdullah passed away, Dr. Farooq Abdullah took over as the chief minister. The Congress Party could not regain majority in the state assembly election in 1983.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah made the tactical political error by hosting a conclave of opposition parties in the state. The Centre, headed by Indira Gandhi, sent Jagmohan as the Governor and there were defections in the National Conference, and Farooq Abdullah lost power.

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Rajiv Gandhi brought back Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and Mufti remained a minister in the Central Government. For Mufti, the dream of returning to his state was still to remain a dream.

When Rajiv Gandhi lost power in 1989, Mufti left the Congress Party and became a part of prime minister V. P. Singh’s set up. V. P. Singh made Mufti the home minister. Mufti’s stint with a third Prime Minister. Those were the early days of the proxy war promoted by Pakistan. Mufti faced a difficult situation following the kidnapping of his daughter Rubaiya Sayeed. Events moved fast and the Presidents’ rule was imposed on the state.

When elections were held in the state in 1996, the National Conference came to power again. Mufti then founded the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and fought the elections in 2002 and formed a coalition with the Congress and shared power.

He took many initiatives to establish peace in the state, decided to promote a ‘healing touch’ and opened a road link with Pakistan occupied Kashmir. He wanted better relations to prevail with Pakistan and was in favour of promoting trade relations across the Line of Actual Control. In 2005, he handed over power to Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad.

In the 2008 elections, the National Conference had an alliance with the Congress and Omar Abdullah became the chief minister. Mufti had to remain in the Opposition.

Mufti came back to power last year when the Bharatiya Janata Party decided to form an alliance with the Peoples’ Democratic Party. His statement soon after the swearing-in ceremony that he looked forward to better relations between India and Pakistan created a controversy, but recent events have proved that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appreciated the stand taken by Mufti.

Mufti wanted to hand over power to his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, aware of his failing health. He was often heard saying that it was Mehbooba who did all the ground level work and he just basked in the people’s affection. The daughter, who has been his shadow for decades, will now play the role he had always wanted her to.

[Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached at raoramamohan@hotmail.com]. (ANI)

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