Mehbooba prays at Mufti’s grave before PDP meeting over government formation

Srinagar : PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, likely to be the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday visited her father’s grave for prayers, hours before the party lawmakers were to hold a crucial meeting here to take a final call on the government formation in the state.

Mehbooba went to the graveyard in the ancestral hometown of Bijbehara in south Kashmir Anantnag district. Accompanied by one of her two daughters, the PDP prayed there for a while before headding to Srinagar to attend the meeting with her legislators.

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Top Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sources told IANS that the meeting would start at 4 p.m. at Mehbooba’s Fairview residence in Srinagar’s upscale Gupkar neighbourhood.

“Mehbooba will apprise the legislators of her party about the developments including her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week,” a PDP source said.

“The party will deliberate on its future course of action with regard to the government formation in the state.”

The PDP legislature party has authorised Mehbooba to take a call on continuing the ruling alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But the party has not as yet nominated her as the leader in the state legislature, a constitutional requirement before she stakes claim to power. The sources said the PDP legislature party meeting is also likely to elect Mehooba as their leader.

This dispels media speculations that she had decided to allow some other confidant to be nominated as the legislature party leader so that she could continue as the party president and also as the member of the Lok Sabha.

Party insiders say it is highly unlikely that Mehbooba would stand down from her claim to chief ministership and allow somebody else to don the mantle because that could create infighting in the party.

“She is the undisputed leader of the party. Nobody else is. It has to be her,” said a senior PDP leader and former minister here.

Mehbooba represents south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. If she gets elected as the leader of the state legislature party, the way would be paved for her to become the first woman chief minister of India’s only Muslim majority state.

In that case, she will have to get elected to either house of the state’s bicameral legislature and also resign her Lok Sabha seat.

Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government after Mehbooba’s father and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died in a Delhi hospital.

Mehbooba was widely speculated to take over the reins soon but she dragged her feet on continuing to ally with the BJP and wanted it to redraw the alliance terms that had father had authored.

After remaining entrenched in their respective positions for more than two months, the two partners warmed up to each other following Mufti’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday in Delhi.