Mufti Turns 79

Riyaz-Ul-Khaliq

SRINAGARmufti-sayed

When government formation has been overshadowing all other events in restive Jammu and Kashmir after December 23 results, sullen Fairview residence at fortified Gupkar is silently celebrating the 79th birth day of PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed- man of the moment.

This day in 1936, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was born in family of religious clerics at Baba Mohalla in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town. Mufti completed his graduation from S P College Srinagar before obtaining a law degree and then Post Graduation in Arab History from Aligarh Muslim University.

Father of four, Mufti’s, affiliation to pro-India politics is as old as Kashmir’s accession to India itself. Less known to people, Mufti has been a practicing lawyer as well.

Mufti’s only constant factor in state politics is his role against National Conference led by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Starting his career in politics, he joined Democratic National Conference in 1951 and just a decade after he was elected to state legislature, for the first time, from his home constituency Bijbehara.

Again a decade later in 1972, he made his entry to Legislative Council.

In 1975 – which is famous for Abdullah-Indira Accord – Mufti was made the leader of the Congress Legislature Party and state Pradesh Congress President. This was possibly a great challenge to survive against the hate factor of Congress in people of Kashmir. When Sheikh Abdullah was in power after becoming chief minister, Mufti was cabinet minister before Congress withdrew its support from the government in 1977 and state came under Governor’s rule.

Mufti, the oldest surviving politician from main stream camp rooted Congress in Jammu and Kashmir and was considered to be the face of Congress. When it comes to name the stalwarts of Congress, Mufti’s name is hard to be ignored.

When Dr Farooq Abdullah had to face rebellion from his own brother-in-law, late G M Shah and his government fell, Mufti had a strong role in making Shah as next CM.

Just two years later in 1986, Mufti was appointed as Union Minister for Tourism in the ministry of Rajiv Gandhi’s government where-from he resigned before completing his full term.

He resigned from Congress in 1987 and joined VP Singh’s Jan Morcha and in 1989 was made India’s Home Minister. So far, he is the only Muslim who has made to the seat.

Back home, Valley was in grip of militancy and Farooq Abdullah lost support of his government, center (read Mufti) sent Jagmohan as Governor and state remained under Governor’s rule for 246 days.

After he completed his life’s cycle by ruling from Home Minister’s chair, Mufti joined the Congress again when it was led by Narasimha Rao.

Though Mufti understood the fact that to stay relevant, it is important to have a regional identity. He resigned and along with his daughter founded his own People’s Democratic Party in 1999. Knowing the pulse of people, he decided to have Green Flag with Inkpot as symbol (it was popular when Muslim United Front fought election in late 1980s).

Riding his ‘healing touch’ policy to the conflict torn valley, Mufti secured 16 seats in his first attempt in 2002. After state was under Governor’s rule for 22 days, he was able to form government with the help of Congress. Congress he used to say is his ‘natural ally’. With this, his ‘long cherished dream’ of becoming Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir was fulfilled.

Remaining at the helm of state affairs for three years – the period saw an apparent shift in security situation while developmental works too got boost – Mufti withdrew support to the then Gh Nabi Azad led government in 2008, again inviting Governor’s rule, as state witnessed huge protests against Amarnath Land Transfer.

Winning six more seats in the elections that followed 2008 uprising, Mufti and his legislators sat in opposition for six years before launching a huge campaign riding anti-incumbency and anti NC wave in 2014 elections and taking its toll to 28 but, so far, is unable to claim government formation in state. They fell short of the number of their expectation. The state is again under Governor’s rule and Mufti is again – the reason – so far.

Confined to his home, Mufti has not spoken yet about the government formation of which he is the main stake holder. He has kept his cards close to his heart. Almost everybody has kicked the ball into Mufti’s court and the Maverick is not talking. Sources close to him say he is tense but composed. At 79, Mufti has to consider so many things before taking a final call. At the fading end of his political career, Mufti is in quagmire but still has kept people guessing.

Known to change the course, Mufti, is the only constant factor in implementing Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. Senior of all in politics, time has put Mufti to test. Which way he will take, only time will tell. For now it is time for him to have a smile and celebrate.

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