AFTER nine days outside the state for a speculated medical check-up and some rest, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed returned to Valley on Tuesday. Though he resumed his office, also meeting the Chairman NABARD Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, the rumours about his health have refused to die down. The reason for this are the developments in Valley over the past two weeks. The CMs health became a subject of country-wide gossip after his daughter Mehbooba Mufti talked about it during her political outing in South Kashmir. Mehbooba broke down when she mentioned Mufti in her speech, saying he was not keeping good health. Soon after, Mufti left the state, leaving people guessing as to his destination. Mehbooba has now revealed that the CM had gone from Delhi to Mumbai and Bangalore to meet his son. She also insisted that CM was fine by the grace of God.
But except for this short absence CM has gone energetically about his job. In his six months in power, he has visited all the districts of the state except Poonch. He has attended all the board meetings and undertaken tourism and horticulture related tours. This is understood to have sapped his energy, forcing his doctors to prescribe some urgent break. His return to the state may have reigned in the runaway buzz about his allegedly failing health, but it has by no means put it to rest. At 80, and wrestling with the age-related health issues, few people in the state believe that Mufti will hold the reigns through the six-year term. And his recent absence from the state has only reinforced this perception. For many people it is but a matter of time before Mehbooba takes over. And her recent return to the political scene is seen as one of the indicators of an impending but not immediate change of guard.
Here is hoping that CMs health improves and he continues to be politically active for many years to come. But in public imagination, this doesnt detract from the interest surrounding Mehboobas assumption of power in near future. And as and when this happens, this will rewrite the political script of J&K. Mehbooba has twice been elected to Parliament and to the State Assembly but has never occupied the government office, preferring to work under the shadow of her father and hold the reigns of PDP. This way she has remained connected to the partys grassroots politics and also, as far as possible, steered the governance and its attendant discourse to the expectations of the people. This may not be true for this coalition but this was indeed the case in the previous PDP-Congress coalition.
What the health concerns around Mufti also underline is the first indication of a new political reality unfolding in the state. While a generational shift has already taken place in NC, PDP is the next in line. Already, there are new political actors on the scene in the form of Sajad Gani Lone, Engineer Rashid etc. That is, if we dont include separatist leaders in the picture. We are entering the uncharted political waters whose contours, if not now, will be clearer by the time next Assembly election comes along.
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