NEW DELHI/ SRINAGAR: Mehbooba Mufti, 56, is expected to take oath this afternoon as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. She will succeed her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who died in Delhi yesterday after a brief illness.
Mehbooba will also be the country’s first Muslim woman chief minister. The oath ceremony is likely to take place at around 3 or 3.30 this afternoon, sources said. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav is expected to attend.
Ram Madhav will reach Srinagar from Delhi in a short while from now and meet state leaders of his party, which partners Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party or PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP will then hand a formal letter supporting Mehbooba Mufti for chief minister to Governor NN Vohra.
The PDP has already conveyed to the Governor that Mehbooba Mufti, the party’s president, is its choice for chief minister.Mehbooba Mufti has her share of detractors in the state BJP, but sources say the Mufti’s sudden death left it with little time for negotiations with its ally.
In Jammu and Kashmir, which has special status, Governor’s Rule is imposed immediately in case a chief minister dies as the post cannot be kept vacant.Also, the crucial Budget session of the state assembly begins on January 18 and a chief minister must be in place by then.
In state elections held in December 2014, the PDP had won 28 of Jammu and Kashmir’s 87 seats, dominating the Kashmir Valley, but fell short of a majority. After weeks of negotiations, Mufti Sayeed crafted an unlikely alliance with ideological opposite BJP, helping it share power for the first time in the Muslim majority state.
The BJP placed number 2 in the state with 25 seats, all won in the Jammu region. The National Conference has 15 seats and the Congress 12.Mehbooba began her political career in 1996, joining the Congress. In 1999, she was by her father’s side as he broke away from the Congress and launched the PDP.
Mehbooba is a Lok Sabha MP; she retained her seat south Kashmir seat in 2014.