Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

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The Times of India

Dec 24 2014

He couldn't be youngest J&K CM, but may be the oldest

Sameer Arshad

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was state Congress chief came within a whisker of becoming J&K's youngest CM in March 1977 when Congress pulled the plug on Sheikh Abdullah's government. Two years earlier, despite her party's majority in the house, PM Indira Gandhi had allowed Abdullah to take office, a reward for endorsing the erosion of J&K's special status and abandoning his plebiscite plank. Soon things came to a head. Congress withdrew support.

As PCC chief, Sayeed was Abdullah's natural successor. But Abdullah nixed that, recommending the assembly's dissolution, upheld by then governor L K Jha. That put paid to 41-year-old Sayeed's ambition of making history and marked the beginning of a classic political rivalry.Sayeed, who turns 78 in January , had helped engineer the toppling of Farooq Abdullah's government in 1984 -working closely with then governor Jagmohan. But the state's top post still eluded him as Farooq made up with Congress, aligning with it ahead of the 1987 elections.

Sayeed quit Congress to be made Union home minister in V P Singh's Jan Morcha government in 1989, the first Muslim to hold the post. His elevation came as a quid pro quo deal where hardliner Jagmohan -whose counter-insurgency policies are blamed for worsening the situation -was made gover nor. The deal was struck as BJP -whipping anti-Muslim frenzy and supporting Singh's government -was unhappy with Sayeed's appointment. Sayeed's failed to shrug off the taint of his 1984 association with Jagmohan. His opponents rake this up, while NC highlights how Farooq resigned in 1990 against Jagmohan's appointment as governor.

He had a tumultuous tenure as Union home minister during which his daughter Rubaiya was kidnapped and released in exchange of five jailed militants. Sayeed's sup porters cite the kidnapping to swear by his incorruptible lifestyle, saying Rubaiya was abducted while travel ling on a public bus despite being the second-most powerful Indi an's daughter. Sayeed's aides say he's self-made, having built his career through hard work.

Sayeed left Congress in 1999 to form People's Democratic Party , whose win in its electoral debut in the 2002 polls propelled him to the state's top post. As CM, he made his `healing touch' cornerstone of his policies, ushering in a decline in militant violence.

He expected Congress to al low him to continue after three years in office but had to hand over the baton to Ghulam Nabi Azad as part of the power sharing deal in 2005. NC formed government in 2008 even as PDP increased both seats and vote share. Its mismanagement after the recent floods gave Sayeed an edge.

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