At a time when political parties across the country are projecting young blood, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) decided to fall back on its old war horse Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and fight the ongoing assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir under his leadership.
PDP insiders told HT that projecting Sayeed and not his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, 45, as the chief ministerial candidate was part of a well-crafted strategy formulated after taking views of the workers and supporters.
The “failure” of the young leadership, a senior PDP leader said on the consition of anonymity, also forced the leadership to change its tactic vis-à-vis fighting the assembly polls.
“Look what happened to Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav or for that matter Rahul Gandhi. Their example is not something that others would want to replicate,” he said.
A former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Sayeed, 78, has the distinction of being the country’s first Muslim home minister. He was in charge of the high profile ministry during the VP Singh government in 1989.
It was during this period that his third daughter Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and freed only after the central government released five jailed militants.
Sayeed, who once headed the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), formed the PDP in 1999.
“Majority of our leaders and workers wanted Mufti sahib to be named as the chief ministerial and fight the elections on the good work he had done during his previous tenure from 2002 to 2005,” another PDP leader said.
“His healing touch policy won us accolades not only in J&K but across the country. Even the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy and veteran BJP leader L K Advani had endorsed it.”
On the other hand, Mehbooba, who heads the PDP and represents the Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha, has “acceptance” issues within the party as a particular section continue to owe its allegiance to her father.
But PDP sources maintained that she remains the number two in the party and has the ability to lead from the front. “Who can challenge that? She is our star campaigner and undoubtedly the future of the party,” said a PDP strategist.