Mehbooba Becomes J&K’s First Woman Head Of Opposition

11 February 2009
The Indian Express

Jammu: Nearly two weeks ahead of the beginning of first assembly session for Omar Abdullah led government, Jammu and Kashmir’s main opposition, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday vowed to play the role of constructive opposition after electing its President as the leader of the party in the assembly, who has become the first woman in the state to head an opposition. “She is the first woman to head the opposition in the state,” said Jammu and Kashmir’s senior most politician and 74-year old senior leader of the PDP, Abdul Aziz Zargar. Mufti was elected as the leader of the opposition in a party meeting at Jammu in which all the MLAs except for Shia leader Moulvi Iftikar Hussain Ansari participated. Ansari was in Delhi to meet the Ambassador of Iran. However the party choose its meeting of the legislators in Jammu instead of Srinagar to give the message that it was for addressing the issues of all the three regions of the state. The party for the first time in 2008 assembly elections won two seats from Jammu region and lost by a slim margin on a third seat, even as the Amarnath agitation propelled BJP to victory in 11 assembly constituencies. However, while both the BJP and PDP will keep Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on his toes, it is difficult for them to put up a united face of an opposition particularly when they are divided over key issues like the representation to Jammu region in the assembly by holding of fresh delimitation. While BJP says the issue was pressing and needs to be done immediately, PDP says that, ‘time is not ripe for it.’ By electing Mufti as the opposition leader, PDP also put at rest any speculations that the party would rely on its old guard, prolific speaker and former Finance Minister Muzaffar Beigh, to do the job. In fact, both Beigh and Mehbooba gave a press conference on Wednesday where Beigh said, ‘Mehbooba was capable of handling the job.’ In the 87 member house, PDP is the largest opposition with its 21 MLAs and NC has a big challenge from it, particularly on its Kashmir specific policies where Chief Minister Omar is considering putting a big thrust on concentrating on both economic and political dispensations for the Kashmir valley. Election of Mehbooba Mufti as the party leader to the assembly came only a day after PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said that there should be more of a debate on resolution of Kashmir issue and war mongering was ill-advised.