Muftis give up Delhi for J&K

9 April 2009
The Hindustan Times
Arun Josh

Jammu: For the sake of local politics, the Muftis have let go of national ambitions. Neither former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, nor his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) president, would contest the Anantnag seat for the first time since 1998. The Muftis have instead endorsed trusted partyman Peer Mohammad Hussain, a former minister. The Mufti had won from Anantnag in 1998 but lost the seat the following year to the NCP. In 2004, Mehbooba Mufti won it back. But instead of seeking re-election, the PDP chief on Monday evening announced Hussain's candidature. The Muftis' pulling out of the Lok Sabha election is a clear indication that they want to stay in Kashmir and win back ground lost to the Abdullahs' National Conference (NC). This also means that the PDP will be a permanent political headache for the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government, which has a very thin majority in the House of 87 - 45 including two Independents. They want to become the voice of the people in a more determined manner, sources close to the PDP said. PDP with 21 seats in the legislative assembly profiles itself as a potent political force in the state. The father-daughter duo hope that the largest vote share in the assembly elections and aggressive campaigning in the parliamentary polls would yield good results for the party provided there is no rigging of the polls. NC leaders have not put out an official reaction to the Muftis not contesting the Lok Sabha polls, but sources in the party said, They (Muftis) are doing so to bolster the morale of their own party workers as they have already seen writing on the wall. NC leaders feel that the PDP would lose all the three seats, to which the PDP has responded by saying, It's NC's wishful thinking. Former CM Sayeed has already started predicting the fall of the directionless government which has no programme at all.