Mehbooba Mufti faces toughest test of her rollercoaster political career

63-year old Mehbooba Mufti served as the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from April 2016 to June 2018.

She is the eldest child of late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. Her sister, Rubiaya Sayeed, was kidnapped by the JKLF in 1989 when her father was the Union Home Minister.

She took her law degree from Kashmir University and later worked for sometime with Bombay Mercantile Bank and a private airline.

Opposing the National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah became the second nature for Mehbooba Mufti because her baptism into politics in 1996, when she fought the state Assembly elections from Bijbehara in Anantnag district, and was part of her father’s political objective to create an alternative to the NC.

As leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, she distinguished herself as a firebrand politician. Politically, she is believed to be bold to a fault.

Whatever her opponents might blame her for, none can blame her for either mincing words or making an understatement. Her statements often land her in controversies.

Given the fact that she floats from one controversy to the other with such ease, proves that she loves to be controversial.

She headed an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was originally worked out by her father as the President of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the 2014 Assembly elections.

Late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had called the alliance between the BJP and the PDP ‘meeting of South pole and the North pole’. His daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, stood to prove that the two can never meet.

She headed on uneasy alliance with the BJP as the Chief Minister and the diametrically opposite political interests resulted in the BJP withdrawing from the alliance in June 2018.

Since then, J&K has been under the Central rule, first as a full-fledged state with a special status and later as an UT shorn of its special status.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but none stranger than the NC and the PDP joining hands in the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PADG) for restoration of J&K’s special status.

She has by now almost lost all her senior party colleagues and yet she is the one person who can rightly be called the ‘one woman’s party’.

She remains unfazed in her political career and despite her former party leaders calling her ‘arrogant and dictatorial’, Mehbooba Mufti stands to prove that you may break her, but you cannot change her.

She has fewer senior party colleagues with her at present and yet she keeps on visiting places, highlighting public issues and taking the central government and the BJP head-on.

People close to her suggest that she is a born leader of the opposition who does not know how to handle herself in power.

“Difficult to say whether power goes to her head or not. She believes in running the party as she would and any suggestion to course correction is not taken kindly by her,” said a senior PDP leader.

Her politics has always been Kashmir centric and despite her statements attracting a lot of flak from the people in power, she does not seem to relent in her pursuit of behaving as a mainstream politician with a tinge of soft separatism.

It was her so-called ‘soft attitude’ to separatism that finally saw the parting of ways between the PDP and the BJP.

Would her mainstream image and her soft separatism gel well with the voters during the forthcoming Assembly elections? Only time will tell.

Her defeat in the Parliamentary elections from Anantnag constituency by NC’s Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi was like challenging the lioness in her own lair. That defeat has jolted her a bit.

Given her past record, the defeat could fill her with greater resolve to stage a political comeback.

Time is not very far when her capacity to lead a disjointed party and to come out of the personally bruised image would both be put to test.

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