Mufti Is The Man

Updated: Oct 19 2002, 05:30am hrs
Every political party has a right to seek power in a democracy. However, there are times when a party, especially a national party with a great history like the Indian National Congress, must share power in the larger interests of the nation. It is both in the national interest as well as the interest of the Congress Party if it ponders the issue carefully, that the chief ministership of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) should go to Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

There are at least two good reasons why he deserves the job. First, he comes closest to representing the sentiment of large sections of the electorate who stayed away from voting on the assumption that the elections in J&K wouldnt be free and fair. Many voters who boycotted the polls have since expressed the view that if they only knew how free and fair the polling would in fact be, they would have come to the booth and cast their vote. It can be safely assumed that none of these votes would have gone to the National Conference or the two national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress. Those who preferred these parties have exercised their franchise. It is those who were opposed to them that stayed away. The latter would more likely have gone Mr Sayeeds way. Secondly, allowing him to emerge as a Kashmiri counterpoise to Mr Farooq Abdullah can help stabilise the politics of the state and bring the aggrieved Kashmiri back into the mainstream of national politics.

While Mr Sayeed and his charismatic and dynamic daughter, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, have flirted with separatist and pro-Pakistani elements in J&K, as a former home minister of India the former can be expected to play a responsible role in reducing the alienation of the Kashmiri Muslim. This, rather than giving representation to a leader from Jammu, should be the national priority now. A practical compromise could be along the lines of the former BJP-Bahujan Samaj Party accord in Uttar Pradesh where the two allies in a coalition government shared the chief ministers job. Mr Sayeed could be chief minister for the first three years of the governments tenure and a Congress leader from Jammu could get this job for the remainder of the term. Both parties should show grace and maturity and accept such a workable compromise in the larger national interest.