A leader with grassroots-level popularity, Mehbooba Mufti turned Peoples Democratic Party into a regional force and emerged from the shadow of her illustrious father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to head Jammu and Kashmir, the first woman chief minister of the state.
A law graduate, 56-year-old Mehbooba took a plunge into mainstream politics of the state in 1996 by joining Congress, along with her father, at a time when militancy was at its peak.
She is credited with growth of the PDP with some observers arguing that she outshone her father in connecting with the common people, especially the youths.
She was also accused of playing the soft-separatist card. PDP chose the green colour for the party flag and adopted Pen-Inkpot election symbol of the Muslim United Front (MUF) of 1987, but these moves found some resonances on the ground among the Kashmir residents.
Heading a PDP-BJP government formed with an alliance between two idealogical extremes, Mehbooba faces a challenging task ahead as she will strive to carry forward her father’s ‘healing touch’ legacy.
A mother of two daughters, she assumed an image of a fiery leader and won her first Assembly election as a Congress candidate from her home segment of Bijbehara.
She then played a key role in her father’s victory as Congress candidate in Lok Sabha elections of 1998 when he defeated National Conference’s Mohammad Yousuf Taing from south Kashmir.As Sayeed felt an urge to do something for return of peace to Kashmir, Mehbooba was by his side and the father-daughter duo floated their regional party – the PDP – in 1999.
They took along some leaders disgruntled with National Conference and many from Congress, a party where Sayeed spent most of his six-decade political career.
From there, Mehbooba took on the responsibility of building the new party. Mehbooba used to visit the homes of those killed in militancy-related violence and immediately struck a chord with the people, especially women, often lending them a shoulder to cry on.
Two years later, Mehbooba contested Parliamentary polls from south Kashmir and won her first Lok Sabha election. She contested Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar in 1999 but was defeated by her bete noire Omar Abdullah.
In the 2002 Assembly polls, termed as watershed in the state, PDP bagged 16 seats – most of them from south where Mehbooba had extensively campaigned and consolidated the support for her party and her father was sworn-in as the chief minister with the support of his former party Congress.