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Mufti Mohammad Sayeed: Another chance in a chequered career

His has been a life of remarkable ups and downs and this result promises to be another challenge

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

For those who don't have the patience to understand the complexities of the of Jammu and Kashmir, here is one thumb rule: in J&K, there's and history according to the Abdullahs - Sheikh, Farooq and Omar.

And then, there's and history according to the others. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed leads the party that comprises The Others.

As parties go, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is relatively new, formed in 1999. Its founder was ex- Congressman Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, likely to become the next chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

He was a young deputy minister in G M Sadiq’s government in 1967, a rising star in the Congress. When Delhi found Sadiq dispensable, Mufti was quick to switch sides to Syed Mir Qasim and was made a cabinet minister.

He was made Congress leader in the legislative council from 1972 to 1975. He gathered many IOUs, made many friends and influenced many people. It was in 1977 that things began unravelling. He was chief of the Pradesh Congress Committee. The 1977 elections, seen widely as the only fair elections in the state, proved unfortunate for Mufti. He lost from his hometown. When he lost again in the 1983 election, his alienation from the Congress was deep, his advice having been repeatedly ignored.

In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi tried to win him back and made him Union minister for tourism but then signed the Gandhi-Abdullah accord in 1987. Mufti couldn’t take it any more. He left the Congress and hitched his star with V P Singh’s Jan Morcha. In 1989, he became the home minister of India — elected not from his home state that wouldn’t return him but from UP.

The virulence and depth of his feelings about the Abdullahs was there for all to see. Farooq Abdullah sent a message that he didn’t want Jagmohan as Governor. As home minister, whom did Mufti send? Jagmohan, despite advice to the contrary by then President R Venkataraman. Abdullah resigned.

As home minister, Mufti’s tenure was unremarkable. His daughter was kidnapped by militants in J&K and let go in exchange for a deal. In the absence of any grand gestures, the VP Singh government’s “home” policy carried on until the government fell.

After launching the PDP in 1999 and becoming chief minister in 2002, largely because of the intervention of a man called Manmohan Singh (who invented the three-year rotational chief ministership), did Mufti leave a legacy for Kashmir to remember? He promised to dismantle the Special Operations Group; they now function under the direction of the armed police. In winter, Kashmir saw load-shedding for up to 18 hours a day; that continues. The only employer in Kashmir continues to be the government.

His daughter is running the party. Narendra Modi mockingly told the people of J&K that it was time to liberate themselves not only from “baap-beta’’ but also “baap–beti’’.

That doesn’t seem likely.

First Published: Wed, December 24 2014. 00:24 IST