The legislature party of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is all set to elect its new leader on Thursday, and it may not be Mehbooba Mufti. The 56-year-old PDP chief is a Lok Sabha MP from Anantnag, and not a member of either house of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
Sources in the PDP said the position may go to four-time legislator Abdul Rehman Veeri, after which he would propose Mehbooba’s name for the chief minister’s post. The PDP chief has to get elected to one of the houses within six months.
Veeri, a Mufti family loyalist, represents Mehbooba’s native constituency Bijbehara in south Kashmir.
Mehbooba will also brief the legislature party on the outcome of the meeting she had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, and announce their future course of action. She, however, refused to explain her stand on government formation to the media. “As I said, I will talk to my legislators because that is the forum to do so. This is not the place. There is a particular place to make such announcements. I will go back to Srinagar and take the next step,” the PDP chief said.
The election of the new legislature party leader will be followed by a discussion on coordinating with the BJP on governance. The BJP will then inform governor NN Vohra about its support to the PDP, paving the way for Mehbooba to stake claim as the head of the next government. Once sworn in, she will be the first woman chief minister of India’s only Muslim-majority state.
This will also bring the nearly three-month-long governor’s rule in the state to an end. The central rule was imposed in J&K on January 8, a day after the death of former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. His daughter had then decided against taking over the reins of the coalition government.
PDP leaders expressed confidence that some of their party’s demands would be fulfilled.
An expert committee may be set up to review the situation on the ground and examine the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The NDA government had last year rejected the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee’s report — submitted to the UPA in 2005 — that the controversial legislation be repealed.
The army has already decided to vacate four places in the state by March-end, one of the key demands of the PDP. These places are the 212-acre Tatoo ground in Srinagar, 16.30 acres adjoining Jammu University, 456.60 kanals in Anantnag and the land at lower Khurba Thang in Kargil.
The government may initiate a dialogue with all internal stakeholders, including the Hurriyat and other groups, to build a broad-based consensus on resolving all outstanding issues, a PDP leader said. Speaking on the transfer of power projects, he said options such as buying out shares in state-owned utilities (NHPC and NTPC) and revising all loyalty agreements are being explored.