India: Kashmir Gets First Woman Chief Minister

Adeel Shah
Chandigarh, India
160404-IN-kashmir-leader-620.jpg Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (left) prepares for her swearing-in ceremony, April 4, 2016.

Ending a weeks-long deadlock, Mehbooba Mufti on Monday took her oath as the first woman chief minister of India’s northern Jammu and Kashmir state, bringing calls from political commentators for the new government to adopt a people-friendly approach.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan state had been under the governor’s rule since the death in office of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mufti’s father, on Jan. 7.

Since then, Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had struggled to agree on terms of their coalition government in J&K.

Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir is similar to President’s rule in the rest of the country, and is imposed when, as per the constitution, the government is unable to function and the central government takes direct control of the state government.

The stalemate ended on March 23 after a meeting between Mufti, 56, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Mehbooba had delayed taking over as head of the restive state, whose ownership has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan since the sub-continent’s partition in 1947. She said Modi’s government had to first announce Jammu and Kashmir-specific confidence building measures to create a friendly atmosphere.

“I feel, if both parties (PDP and BJP) would opt for a people-centric approach, the government will not face many problems during its rule,” Ravinderjit Kour, a political science professor at the Srinagar-based Kashmir University, told BenarNews.

While welcoming the state’s first female leader, Kour said the only problem Mufti might face initially is “reversing the negative impression that was created in people’s mind due to the delay in forming the government.”

Srinagar political commentator Noor Baba agreed.

“Although it is a good thing that the state now finally has a government, she (Mufti) is bound to face a few challenges in the coming days,” Baba told BenarNews. “People are under the impression that the Governor’s rule in the state was efficient. She will have to work hard to run a government that people would appreciate.”

“Much paperwork that was pending for years was cleared during the Governor’s rule,” said Amin Ashraf, a Srinagar resident. “I hope this new government can be as efficient.”

Mufti plans to carry on father’s legacy

A leader with grassroots popularity, Mufti, who is often credited with outshining her father in connecting with common people, said she would do her best to carry forward her father’s legacy of corruption-free governance.

“I am passionate about getting things going and I need your support in realizing the vision of the former chief minister,” Mufti said after being sworn in.

“Works initiated and reforms brought in by Mufti Sahab (Sayeed) will be carried forward, also along with those initiated by the governor. All the projects initiated in tourism, horticulture, power, health and other sectors need to continue with greater synergy and commitment,” Mufti said.

An important step in this regard will be to simplify the procedures and processes through e-governance.

“Giving clean governance to the people of the state shall remain my focus and there can be no scope for corruption at any level,” Mufti said.

Soon after the ceremony, Mufti met with her ministers, reportedly telling them: “If we don’t perform, people won’t give us a second chance because there are other alternatives available.”

In a congratulatory message on Twitter, Modi, too, underlined the importance of a people friendly approach to governance.

“May the new government of Jammu and Kashmir leave no stone unturned in fulfilling dreams and aspirations of the people and take the state to new heights of progress,” he tweeted.


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