Mehbooba Mufti is poised to become the Chief Minister of J&K which, as the cliché goes, is not like becoming the chief minister of an Indian state, barring perhaps Nagaland and Manipur. She is ascending the chair as a politician who has been slighted. From announcing that nothing short of Confidence Building Measures will make her incline towards aligning with BJP, she settled in the end for a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister. This doesn’t augur well for her confidence and morale. Being the lone woman surrounded by a bunch of men driven only by their ambitions is another drawback. But assuming she does have a free will, she would be better off if she steers clear of the path pro-India politicians are destined to follow. This usually involves imagining yourself as a statesman destined to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Mehbooba can make an exception to this rule because she is going to be the first woman chief minister. One cannot escape the baggage, especially when Mehbooba herself has claimed that PDP-BJP alliance is cast in stone as it has been sanctified her late father. But there is always a scope for improvement.
This can be achieved by removing contradictions. You cannot, as your late father had desired, aim for complete integration of Kashmir with India on the one hand and demand self-rule that seeks a pre-1953 semi-sovereign status on the other. You cannot call for ‘equitable development of all three regions’ and keep your politics Valley-centric. The politics of ‘equitable development’ has been the staple of Sangh rhetoric. Because it implies the Valley has been the recipient of all the goodies, while the fact is that pro-India politicians have been complaining that New Delhi has not been generous to the Valley. The recent flood rehabilitation package is a case in point. In fact, armchair counterinsurgency theorists blame economic backwardness for the armed struggle for freedom. Mehbooba can spare the Kashmiris the intermittent pipe dreams her predecessors were fond of selling, like Gulmarg being the potential Davos of Kashmir.
She can also put in practice some of her statements made during her stint in the opposition, like a ban on pellet ammunition and more freedoms for resistance voices. As a woman who made her political capital by sharing grief with women who had lost their sons and husbands and brothers, she should take up the issue of the disappearances.