The two were vocal in their displeasure over the alliance with the BJP, though Baig recently clarified that Mehbooba is the PDP’s unanimous choice to succeed Mufti.
A senior PDP leader said Mehbooba would need to emulate her late father, who as the state Congress chief at the height of Sheikh Abdullah’s popularity, kept a check on dissent and also ensured that the party retained its foothold in the state’s political landscape.
Though coalition partner BJP too assured support, PDP workers said that Mehbooba will be required to exercise caution to prevent rifts that appeared in the early days of the government from growing.
Mehbooba’s involvement in securing the release of Hurriyat leaders from house arrest ahead of the NSA talks that were later cancelled, and her statement that the Hurriyat had been consulted ahead of the BJP-PDP alliance had set the stage for confrontation.
“Our alliance is with the PDP and our vision for the state’s development is more important than the person,” said a BJP leader, underlining that the party had no objection to her elevation.
The coalition government’s early days, however, were marked by discordant notes as the BJP objected to Mufti thanking the Hurriyat, militant outfits and “people from across the border” for creating an atmosphere conducive for assembly polls and the decision to release separatist leader Masarat Alam from prison.
Other controversies followed, including the recent government order to hoist the state flag alongside the Tricolour and a ban on beef.
Political watchers also point out that Mehbooba will have to bridge the gap between the Centre and the State. “Mufti sahab had friends in Delhi, he did not need intermediaries,” said a source.
The oddities of coalition politics would also test her mettle.
“All eyes will be on her when issues promised by the BJP in its manifesto, such as abrogation of Article 370 or a Union territory status for Ladakh, are raised. Alternatively, she will have to deliver on promises made by the PDP like the removal of AFSPA from the state, without facing opposition from the BJP,” said a source.
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