Srinagar: Thousands on Thursday evening attended the burial of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died earlier in New Delhi, with the PDP urging the governor to let his daughter Mehbooba Mufti take charge of the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
A huge mass of mourners, inclusive of VIPs, family members and party activists, assembled at the first ‘Nimaz-e-Jinaza’ (funeral prayer) for Sayeed here and a second in his hometown Bijbehara where he was laid to rest, marking the end of a long chapter in Kashmiri politics.
Senior PDP leaders Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and Altaf Bukhari, meanwhile, submitted a letter to Governor N.N. Vohra nominating Mehbooba Mufti as the leader of their legislature party — which would entitle her to assume charge as the new chief minister of the BJP-PDP coalition government.
PDP sources told reporters that the letter urged the governor to administer the oath of office to Mehbooba Mufti after Sayeed’s last rites. If and when that happens, she will have to prove her majority on the floor of the 87-member assembly.
But the governor returned to Jammu on Thursday evening, indicating that the oath-taking ceremony of Mehbooba Mufti as chief minister was likely to be delayed.
The swearing in can take place on Friday, said a senior PDP leader, adding that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its alliance partner in the state government, backed Mehbooba Mufti’s elevation as chief minister.
Mehbooba Mufti, an MP, will have to get elected to the state assembly or be nominated to the legislative council (upper house) within six months if she becomes the chief minister. She will be the first woman chief minister of the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
Sayeed, who led the first coalition government in the state also involving the BJP, died in New Delhi on Thursday, 14 days after he was hospitalized.
Sayeed passed away at 9.10 a.m. at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, three days after he was put on ventilator. A severely diabetic, he “died due to bone marrow dysfunction”, a spokesman told reporters. He was admitted on December 24 with fever as well as chest infection.
Amid national mourning, his body was flown to Srinagar.
Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sayeed – who survived several attacks on him by militants – was chief minister the first time in 2002-05 in a coalition government with the Congress. In March last year, he allied with the BJP to become the chief minister again.
President Pranab Mukherjee lauded his contribution to Jammu and Kashmir and India through long years of public service.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sayeed’s “exemplary leadership had a major impact on people’s lives”. Crediting him with “statesmanship”, he said: “Mufti Sahab provided a healing touch to Jammu and Kashmir.”
Sayeed was the third chief minister of the state to die in office — after G.M. Sadiq (1971) and Sheikh Abdullah (1982).
Born in Bijbehara on January 12, 1936 to a family of ‘Peers’, Sayeed studied in Srinagar and at the Aligarh Muslim University before he joined politics in 1959.
After taking on the iconic Sheikh Abdullah, Sayeed became a cabinet minister in Jammu and Kashmir in 1972. Just three years later, he became head of the state unit of the Congress party.
He joined Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government in 1986 but quit the next year to throw his lot with V.P. Singh, who revolted against Gandhi’s leadership and went on to become the prime minister in 1989.
Sayeed became the home minister in the V.P. Singh government.
Within days, militants abducted his third daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, in Srinagar, forcing the V.P. Singh government to free five jailed guerrillas from Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1999, after a brief stint again in the Congress when P.V. Narasimha Rao became its leader, Sayeed and his daughter floated the PDP.