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Daughter of Kashmir-June 2005
Mehbooba Mufti, President, Peoples Democratic Party, Jammu and Kashmir
By Ghazala Wahab
 
In the last decade, ever since she plunged head-first in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir in 1996, Mehbooba Mufti may or may not have learnt the delicate nuances of politics, but she certainly has learnt to exploit her core competency: interacting one to one with ordinary people at their level and establishing a relationship of trust. When her party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in coalition with the Congress won the 2002 assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir there was a clamour among the party workers that she be made the chief minister. That did not happen, her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was the chief ministerial candidate, but she also declined to accept any ministerial office on the grounds that she only wanted to work with the people and help alleviate their sufferings. The PDP’s policy of ‘Healing Touch’ despite coming in for some flak by their opponents started paying dividends as Mehbooba Mufti’s stock soared.

Today, she is as popular in J&K as the chief minister, if not more. And she is certainly more loved. A remarkable feat by all standards, considering that nine years is not a long time in politics. “I always had a soft corner for poor and deprived people,” she says, settling down on a turquoise and aquamarine printed sofa in her living room in central Delhi. She is dressed in the hues of sea — pale turquoise and sea blue — which go very well with the rest of the living room, a refreshing change from the usual MP flats that one finds in Delhi. Though by the state of walls and the ceiling it is clear that not much money has been spent on them, in terms of furnishings and lights, Mufti has lent a personal touch with green and blue organdie drapes and rugs in similar combination. “When I used to go to school in Srinagar,” she continues in English peppered liberally with Urdu, “I used to see these poor people or elderly men travelling in overcrowded buses, clutching the bar with one roughened hand and a tiffin box in the other and my heart used to go out for them. Even as a child, I wanted to reach out and help those people.” Age and experiences may have changed Mehbooba’s personality, the childhood sensitivity remains. There is no denying the fact that she is a politician, but she is no rabble-rouser.
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