The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti quits to build party

Jammu, Nov. 11: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has resigned as president of the People’s Democratic Party to implement his agenda — widening its network so that it emerges as a regional alternative to the National Conference.

Sources said Mufti has chosen a two-pronged strategy, aware of the fragile coalition government he heads primarily with the help of the Congress.

First, the sources said, he wants to give people an accountable administration. And second, he is keen on transferring the “good work” of the government to the organisation he founded in July 1999 and widen its presence from the 16 seats it won in the recent elections.

In this, Mufti has acted with caution. He has not rushed to transfer the presidentship of the party to his daughter Mehbooba, who is seen as the ultimate choice to head the PDP.

Instead, he has given the job to his second-in-command in the government, finance and planning minister Muzzaffar Hussain Beigh, till organisational polls are held. “Well, let us see who becomes the next president in the elections,” Beigh said.

But within the PDP, the decks have already been cleared for Mehbooba, whose intense and passionate campaigning during the elections brought success to the PDP.

The party’s choice of nominee for Rajya Sabha in Tirlok Singh Bajwa has sent a clear signal that it is the will of Mehbooba that prevails. Bajwa is considered a Mehbooba loyalist. Moreover, Mehbooba has started visiting the politically sensitive constituencies of Kashmiri migrants and the border belt of the Jammu region.

The sources said although Kashmiri Hindu migrants do not have any electoral influence, as they are in no position to decide the fate of candidates, there is no doubt about how Kashmiri Pandits can impact Delhi’s thinking in its policies on Kashmir.

Mufti knows this and, for a man whose party is considered soft on militants, the approach also helps with his secular credentials.

Mehbooba has refused attractive offers of joining the government, as she is more comfortable with organisational matters. That is her strength and that is how the Muftis — the father in the government and the daughter in the organisation — are planning to work.

In case any of their coalition partners start playing politics, they could then cash in on the work they have undertaken in two different roles with the common objective of making the PDP the “real voice of Kashmir”.

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