Ms Mufti acknowledges that she came into politics by accident. “But when I entered politics, I found that this was the space that could be used for making lives of people better,” she says. At the peak of militancy when Indian armed forces were often accused of human rights abuses, she struck a chord by visiting the families of militants killed. She would wail and weep with the grieving women in burnt villages and sombre homes, making steady inroads into the “hearts” of people…
Mehbooba Mufti, president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Indian-administered Kashmir, led her party to win most seats during State assembly elections. Daughter of India’s first Muslim home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ms Mufti has been a dominant force in Kashmir politics for a decade and a half now. Although the PDP was launched in 1999 with her father as its president and Ms Mufti as its vice-president, much of the credit for building the party goes to her. She has organised the party ranks and led its campaigns in the state as well as the parliamentary elections. Ms Mufti took the plunge into politics in 1996 as a Congress party candidate when the Indian Government decided to hold elections to the assembly in Jammu and Kashmir. The unassuming, soft-spoken Ms Mufti was an unknown face until she filed her nomination papers for the polls.
She braved the threats and moved ahead to go through the litmus test of politics in a volatile Kashmir Valley that had been reeling under a separatist insurgency since the late 1980s. Her election in a conservative society such as Kashmir was significant.
A law graduate from Kashmir University, Ms Mufti helped her father realise the dream of becoming the State’s Chief Minister for which he had waited for nearly 27 years. Mr Sayeed was in the Congress party in 1996 and when many were reluctant to fight elections under the Indian Constitution and more so under the banner of a national party in Kashmir, he convinced his wife Gulshan Begum to stand for election in Pahalgam and his daughter Mehbooba to run in the Bijbehara constituency. Ms Mufti won the election but her mother lost. Since then, there has been no looking back.
Ms Mufti acknowledges that she came into politics by accident. “But when I entered politics, I found that this was the space that could be used for making lives of people better,” she says. At the peak of militancy when Indian armed forces were often accused of human rights abuses, she struck a chord by visiting the families of militants killed. She would wail and weep with the grieving women in burnt villages and sombre homes, making steady inroads into the “hearts” of people.
In 1999, Ms Mufti and her father quit the Congress realising that it was no longer acceptable to the people of Kashmir who were fighting for separation from India and launched the People’s Democratic Party. In 2002, the PDP formed a Government in the state with the Congress party as its coalition partner and Mr Sayeed was appointed the Chief Minister. Three years later, in 2005, he stepped down to allow the Congress to take the Chief Minister’s post. Mehbooba Mufti has led her party’s election campaign from the front In January 2009, the party sat in opposition when the Congress party decided to form a coalition Government with the National Conference party, led by Omar Abdullah. In the just-concluded elections, Ms Mufti – now a member of the State assembly – led from the front, going door-to-door to meet people and seek support for the PDP candidates.
“Her dedication and hard work is unmatched,” says a party worker, adding that she would leave to campaign at 8am and return home at 9 at night. But all the hard work seems to have paid off. After winning the largest number of seats in the election, the party is poised to return to power and her dream now is to make her father the State’s Chief Minister for the full six-year term of the assembly. Her only regret is that she was not able to give more time to her two daughters. “But they also know that it was not possible,” she says adding: “I am a full-time political worker.”