Mehbooba Mufti Breaks Down At Lawmakers' Meet, Silent On Taking Over

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Mehbooba Mufti Breaks Down At Lawmakers' Meet, Silent On Taking Over

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti breaks down while offering prayers for her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday (Press Trust of India photo)

Srinagar: Mehbooba Mufti broke down as she met lawmakers of her People's Democratic Party or PDP on Sunday evening after a traditional four-day mourning for her father and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ended.

Ms Mufti, who is expected to take over as the state's first woman chief minister, told the PDP legislators to head back to their constituencies and work to strengthen the party. She did not mention government formation.

Jammu and Kashmir is under a brief spell of Governor's Rule since Friday, since Ms Mufti chose not to be sworn in immediately after her father's death. The state's constitution provides that the post of chief minister cannot be vacant.

A seven-day state mourning ends on Wednesday, but Ms Mufti, PDP sources have said, is not inclined to take oath all of this week, and the delay has set off speculation about a political realignment in the state.

A 10-minute meeting between Ms Mufti and Congress president Sonia Gandhi yesterday fuelled the speculation. The Congress has said Ms Gandhi visited Mehbooba Mufti to offer condolences and stressed that they are close family friends.

The PDP and Congress have been allies in Jammu and Kashmir before. But after weeks of negotiation following state elections that threw up a fractured verdict, the PDP had partnered last year with the Congress' chief rival and ideological opposite BJP, with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed heading the coalition government.

Numbers played an important part in bringing together the two parties. The PDP won the most seats at 28, but was 16 short of a simple majority in the 87-member assembly. The BJP, with 25 seats, helped make up the gap. It has not been an easy alliance.

Senior union minister Nitin Gadkari of the BJP too visited Ms Mufti on Sunday.

The Congress has 12 seats in J&K and Omar Abdullah's National Conference has 15. There are four Independent MLAs and two from other parties.

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