Srinagar: Mehbooba Mufti, a divorcee mother of two, succeeds a clutch of men variously remembered as icons, visionaries, flamboyant, promising and, all unanimously, as collaborators.
The political careers of these men spanned trajectories that can only be called disappointments in the end. Not that they had not their heydays and small achievements. But all their good work is constantly subjected to the ultimate touchstone in Kashmir: what did they do to end the 69-year-old malady called Kashmir Dispute.
It is, therefore, not a coincidence that the staple of all profiles of Mehbooba Mufti is how she built the PDP by forging a connection with the overarching Dispute very early in her political career.
Thus, when she was sworn in as the first woman chief minister of the state, FB was dotted with her pictures, in which she holds placards and demands that army should return to barracks and killers of 120 people in the 2010 uprising should be punished.
When questions of such nature are posed by a restive population, a ruler’s gender will not matter much. No doubt, she was the main force behind the transformation of late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed into a Kashmiri politician from the clichéd “Indian by conviction”.
No doubt she was instrumental in building the only opposition to the National Conference which had become accustomed to the whims of its rulers.
But the way her father was treated at the end of his days, which she herself rued, not only came to her as a shock but as a reminder of the fact that whatever path pro-India politicians choose, it only leads to ruination of reputations.
The 57-year-old Mehbooba is described by a party leader as the glue which holds a band of sundry politicians together.
“Many leaders had apprehensions about Mufti sahib in the early stages of the party. It was Mehbooba who filled the gap and kept everyone in good mood,” he added.
Another party leader said Mehbooba trusts her workers more than the official machinery, as she “knows the value of the grassroots activity”.
About her “empathetic nature”, another PDP activist said that while she paid full fees of a poor student at a prestigious college, she took a loan to fund the education of one her daughters in an American university.
With such pedigree, one expects a smooth sailing for a politician. But how does one explain her silence in power on the issue of justice to two women in Shopian who were allegedly raped and drowned by paramilitary troopers? How does one explain telling the people during electioneering that an alliance with BJP was out of question and then hailing her father as visionary for entering into such an alliance?
And, what moral strength will the people in Kashmir derive from her ascent to power with the knowledge that she had to compromise even her feeble ‘demand’ for ambiguous ‘CBMs’?