Srinagar: Mehbooba Mufti was on Thursday unanimously elected as the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers, paving the way for her to become the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and head a government in India's only Muslim majority state after months of tension with the ruling partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Mehbooba Mufti has been nominated as the chief ministerial candidate of the PDP," party spokesman and former minister Naeem Akhtar told reporters outside the Fairview residence of the Muftis on the high security Gupkar Road in Srinagar.
PDP lawmakers had gathered at the Muftis to discuss government formation with the BJP. Akhtar said the decision was unanimous and every legislator and senior PDP leader was on board.
Mehbooba is meeting Governor N.N. Vohra on Friday and is most likely to stake claim to power. BJP state president Sat Pal Sharma is also meeting the governor on the same day at the state Raj Bhawan in winter capital Jammu.
Senior BJP leaders, Jitendra Singh, minister of state in PMO, and Ram Madhav, party national general secretary, are expected to be Jammu on Friday to hold a meeting with the state BJP legislators and senior leaders to discuss the government formation with the PDP.
The swearing-in date is also expected to be announced after Mehbooba and Sharma meet Vohra, separately though. Top sources told IANS that the oath taking ceremony of the Mehbooba-led new government would take place in Jammu early next month.
Mehbooba, 56, will now succeed her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died on January 7, as the chief minister. Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government since.
Mehbooba was tipped to take over the reins but she dragged her feet on continuing to ally with the BJP and wanted it to redraw the alliance terms that her father had authored. However, the BJP refused any fresh concessions and said it will only give assurances on the agenda, finalized last year when the two parties came together to form the state government.
After remaining entrenched in their respective positions for more than two months, the two sides warmed up to each other following Mehbooba's meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday in Delhi.
Senior PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Beigh denied that there has been any give and take with the BJP. "There is no addition or subtraction from the agenda of alliance agreed upon by the two parties. The agenda will be implemented in letter and spirit."
PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Tariq Hameed Karra, a vocal opponent of his party's continuation of alliance with the BJP, was also present in Thursday's meeting.
Before chairing the PDP meeting, Mehbooba went to her father's grave in south Kashmir Bijbehara town along with one of her daughters to pray there and apparently seek blessings for the governance innings she would be playing for the first time in her political career.
She presently represents south Kashmir's Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. She will now have to get elected to either house of the state's bicameral legislature and also resign her Lok Sabha seat.