To be or not to be the chief minister, for two months that was the question.
The way she vacillated, in public and private, in front of cameras and behind them, Mehbooba Mufti, not Haider, would have been the perfect choice for Vishal Bhardwaj's adaptation of Hamlet.
But now that moment is gone. In all likelihood, Mufti has decided to not be Hamlet. She will now be the first women CM of Jammu and Kashmir.
"It was a positive meeting. After my talks with the Prime Minister I am muttmaeen," Mufti said after meeting the PM on Tuesday. Her choice of words—positive and muttmaeeen (satisfied)—indicates Mufti's Shakespearean dilemma is resolved.
It is surprising Mufti took so long to accept the inevitable. Bearing the burden of her late father's decision, even if the long-term impact of an alliance with the BJP could be disastrous for the PDP, was the only viable choice. By delaying it, the princess of Bijbehara came across as confused, insecure and inexperienced. By blinking first after initiating a needless fight with the BJP, Mufti has only exposed more flaws in her nascent politics.
From the moment people saw sparse crowds at late CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's funeral in January, it had become apparent that the PDP was losing political ground in the Valley because of its alliance. That left the party with just two choices: either walk out of the alliance and force a mid-term poll. Or, to arm-twist the BJP, get a few more concessions and then regain lost ground with some populist measures.
As pointed out by Firstpost earlier, Mufti's strategy was simple: She wanted to reposition herself as the Valley's hero by turning the BJP into the villain. If the BJP accepted her wishlist, she would have portrayed herself as the crusader who fought for Kashmir. In case the BJP didn't agree, Mufti would have cast herself in the role of the betrayed beti and recommend fresh elections hoping that her party gains because of sympathy for her departed father.
But, the BJP managed to call Mufti's bluff. First it refused to give her fresh concessions. And then it indicated that it won't mind running the state through the Governor, who, set the cat among the PDP pigeons by overhauling the state administration, clearing files that were pending for years and signalling he was there for the long haul.
Meanwhile, discomfort began to grow within PDP legislators scared of a fresh election, which, they believed, would lead to an electoral rout. "What will we tell the electorate? Why did we first partner the BJP and then break the alliance?" the PDP legislators asked the party leadership. There were no easy answers.
Simultaneously, there was a concerted media campaign to suggest the PDP might split or choose a new leader to revive the alliance with the BJP.
Mufti was left with no option but to accept the alliance on as-is-where-is basis. To assuage her ego, to help her save face, the BJP agreed to arrange a meeting with the PM, who, according to sources, reiterated his party's stand: first form the government and then we will discuss fresh demands.
On Friday, Mufti took this proposal to her MLAs and told them that since the BJP has agreed to implement the agenda of alliance, she has agreed to form the government.
Exactly a year ago, after vacillating for months, her father had embraced the BJP with similar words. Hopefully, Mufti will now show the chutzpah of sticking to the decision, without turning into Hamlet again.
(This story has been republished after Mufti's decision to form the government.)