Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was one of the most recognised Kashmiri politicians in India. But for the people in the Valley, his Peoples Democratic Party is more about his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti.
Mehbooba, who is likely to be J-K’s first woman chief minister following her father’s death, was a relatively unknown entity in the state when she started out.
The law graduate and single mother to two daughters first contested elections as a Congress candidate in 1996. Suddenly, all of Kashmir knew her.
Mehbooba, now 56, plunged into politics when the state started its electoral process after six years of governor’s rule in 1996. As Sayeed, then state Congress chief, could not find many candidates to represent the party, wife Gulshan Ara and Mehbooba contested the polls. While the couple lost, Mehbooba won the South Kashmir seat.
As none of his other children were interested in politics Mehbooba, eldest of the four siblings, inherited her father’s political legacy.
In fact, it was after Mehbooba’s efforts that Sayeed, who was considered Delhi’s man in Kashmir, became the state’s chief minister twice.
So when the senior Mufti decided to part ways with the Congress in 1999, it was the firebrand Mehbooba who took on the burden of building the new party from scratch.
Then in her 40s, Mehbooba read the popular pulse and played the soft-separatist card.
Donning her sports shoes and phiran — the traditional Kashmiri garb — Mehbooba would visit families of civilians and militants killed in action with security forces as well as victims of human rights violation.
News about Mehbooba began filling up local newspapers after she was seen as an alternative to NC’s father-son duo of Farooq and Omar Abdullah.
In 2002, when the senior Sayeed reappeared on the political stage, PDP formed the government in coalition with Congress.
In the three years of PDP’s rule, Mehbooba became the saner voice of the party, differing with her own party at times. But she along with current MP and PDP co-founder Tariq Hamid Karra played a part in breaking the Congress-PDP coalition in 2008.
She once again steered the party to lead against the NC from the front during the six years of Omar Abdullah’s term . Her tenacity led the party to a rousing victory in the 2014 elections.
Even when the party formalised an alliance with the BJP, sources said Mehbooba ensured that her father was accepted as chief minister for a full term.