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Jammu and Kashmir CM Mufti Mohammad Saeed is no more (1936-2016)

J & K, India: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s political adviser Waheed ur-Rahman confirmed that he breathed his last at 8 am Thursday morning. He was flown to AIIMS on December 24 and later shifted to the ICU in a critical state. He was 79-year-old leader who founded the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been admitted to the premier hospital in Delhi with complaints of severe fever and neck pain.

Sayeed was suffering from a non-specific systemic infection, with the exact cause of the infection not being known. He had a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a progressive lung disease. Sayeed was being administered prophylactic antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs.

His treatment was being closely monitored by a team of experts comprising doctors from several departments at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He was also a patient of acute diabetes and had been on a routine check-up every month at the institute.

Even before Sayeed fell ill, reports said he intended to hand down power to his daughter Mehbooba Mufti after completing one year in office on March 1, 2016. Mehbooba currently heads the PDP whose alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been ruling the state since March 1 this year.

Condoling Sayeed’s death, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah said “My heart felt sympathies to Mrs Syed, Mehbooba & the entire family in this most difficult of times. My & my family’s prayers are with them.”

BJP leader Ram Madhav tweeted,“Muftiji ws a visionary leader who dedicated his entire life to a united strong J&K n India.His demise at a crucial juncture saddening”.

he high-points in the political journey of Sayeed, who would have turned 80 on January 12, was his being catapulted to the chair of free India’s first Muslim Home Minister in 1989 and, years later, becoming the Chief Minister of the restive state for a second time in 2015, heading a coalition with BJP, which had its first brush with power in the only Muslim-majority state.

Sayeed’s stint in the Home Ministry, at a time when militancy had begun to rear its ugly head in his home state, would, however, be most remembered for the kidnapping of his third daughter Rubaiya by JKLF. The militants demanded freeing five of their comrades in exchange for Rubaiya’s freedom and let her off only after their demand had been met.

The kidnapping and subsequent release of the militants, according to Sayeed’s rivals, projected India as a “soft state” for the first time.

Born in Baba Mohalla of Bijbehara in Anantnag district on January 12, 1936, Sayeed had his early education at a local school and graduated from S P College, Srinagar. He went on to obtain a law degree and Master’s degree in Arab History from Aligarh Muslim University.

Sayeed cut his political teeth early, having joined the Democratic National Conference of G M Sadiq in the late 1950s.

Sadiq, recognising the potential of the young lawyer, appointed him as the District Convenor of the party. In 1962, Sayeed was elected to the state assembly from Bijbehara, the seat which he retained five years later. He was appointed a Deputy Minister by Sadiq, who by then had become Chief Minister.

Considered an astute organiser and administrator, Sayeed ensured that Congress not only got a foothold in the Valley but created pockets of staunch support for the party. In 1972, he became a Cabinet Minster and also Congress party’s leader in the Legislative Council. He was made the state Congress president a couple of years later. As he rapidly grew in stature, Sayeed saw himself as the next Chief Minister of the state. However, all hopes he might have harboured of occupying the hot seat were dashed when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi entered into an accord with Abdullah and facilitated his return as chief minister after a hiatus of 11 years, much against the wishes of Congress workers in general and Sayeed in particular.

It was the first time that Jammu and Kashmir was brought under Governor’s rule. Sayeed would later play a role in imposition of Governor’s rule on all five occasions during his epic political career.

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