Amid speculations of change of guard in the state, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Friday hinted at handing over power to his 56-year-old daughter Mehbooba Mufti.
“Mehbooba is mature enough to handle responsibilities,” Mufti said, while replying to a query at a press conference in Jammu on Friday. There have been speculations that 79-year-old Mufti may hand over power to his daughter in near future as he was not keeping good health. He will turn 80 on January 12 next year.
“Not true at all. Mufti sahib was in Mysore to attend a function. He is returning on Tuesday and there is no truth in the rumours that there is a change of guard on the cards in the state,” sources close to the Chief Minister said while categorically denying rumours and speculation about the matter.
Denials apart, local newspapers on Tuesday carried front page news about the speculation, with some trashing it as a figment of rumour mongers’ imagination and others adding to the speculation.
“This government will run its full term. There will be no change of guard and Mufti sahib is leading a normal healthy life”, said the sources.
“No truth in these rumours. All is well”, Mehbooba Mufti too said on Monday.
Political and public circles were agog with rumours for the last many days about the issue, with social media posts adding fuel to the speculation that the chief minister was thinking of handing over the reins to his daughter.
“It was due to her efforts that the PDP got a good number of seats in the 87-member Assembly,” he said. The PDP has 28 members in the J&K Assembly.
“After forming government in March this year, I only focused on development and administration and did not get time to interact with my party workers. Mehbooba has better access to them and understands their problems,” Mufti said.
Hinting that he will also hold talks with his coalition partner BJP on the change of guard, he said it would be a collective decision.
If Mehbooba takes over as Chief Minister, it would be for the first time in state’s history that a woman would become the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
National Conference leaders engaged in a debate whether Mehbooba’s elevation would go down well with some senior leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party like Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hameed Karra.
What probably added fuel to the rumour fire was the absence of the chief minister from capital Srinagar for three days when the state government was facing a crisis of sorts due to chief secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khandey’s decision to step down.
Khandey relinquished office on Monday and the state government is likely to take a call on the new chief secretary on Tuesday after the chief minister’s return to Srinagar.