With Mufti Mohammad Sayeed still reeling under ill-health in Delhi's AIIMS and the budget session in Jammu and Kashmir all set to begin, the state government most likely will announce Sayeed's daughter Mehbooba Mufti as the chief minister of J&K. If so, Mehbooba will be the first woman Chief Minister for the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to sources who spoke to The Indian Express, the decision will be taken finally if Mufti's health doesn't improve in the coming weeks.
Speaking to the paper, Deputy CM Dr Nirmal Singh said, "We wish Sayeed speedy recovery. As far as the change of guard in the government is concerned, we have not received any call from PDP."
The BJP, reacting for the first time to the issue, also added that it has 'no problems' if PDP president Mehbooba Mufti takes over as J&K CM, given the deteriorating health of her father. Senior BJP leader and health minister of the state, J&K Chaudhary Lal Singh, clarified that the 'change of guard' is an 'internal matter' of PDP, and BJP 'won't interfere with it'.
BJP's remarks came as a relief for the PDP camp as there was "considerable speculation" that BJP could have asked for the CM's position for three years on rotational basis. According to this report in The Economic Times, BJP and RSS had expressed concerns, privately, over the ideological predilections of Mehbooba, who is seen as a pro-separatists.
Mehbooba's coronation is a case of when and not if in view of her father's illness. Mufti was admitted to the ICU of AIIMS on 24 December after he complained of 'acute chest pain and fever.'
An AIIMS spokesperson said the CM is 'critical but stable', he is on 'antibiotic and antifungal treatment' and is given 'oxygen therapy'. "The PDP-BJP alliance has shared the responsibilities of governance. We won't ask for any more ministerial posts or any other demand in the wake of this transition," ET quoted Singh as saying.
Sayeed, 79, himself during a media breifing in Jammu in November last year had asserted that Mehbooba was capable of running the affairs of the state. Mehbooba has been, since the PDP's inception, a driving force behind its emergence as an alternative to the National Conference in the state’s politics. The party was launched in 1999 and much of the credit for building its base is attributed to her. She was instrumental in mobilising and organising cadre for the party and is known as a hard bargainer.
When the BJP-PDP formed an alliance early this year, she worked hard to ensure that her father is accepted by the BJP as chief minister for a full term, not on a rotational basis.