Jammu, Dec 31: Political circles here are rife with speculations that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will pass on the mantle to his daughter Mehbooba Mufti sooner rather than later, due to health reasons.
Sayeed (79), who founded Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999, was admitted to the intensive care unit of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on December 24 with a chest infection.
Official statements say he has been making steady recovery.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Sayeed at the hospital on December 29 and interacted with the team of doctors treating him.
Even before his illness struck Sayeed, media reports have been making rounds that Sayeed 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.
Asked to comment on the media reports, Sayeed said at a press conference last month that whether or not Mehbooba should become the chief minister would only be decided by the PDP through a democratic process.
He said Mehbooba has been attending to all the problems of the people and the hard work she has been putting in was visible to everybody.
According to the alliance terms decided between the PDP and BJP, Sayeed is to remain the chief minister for the full six-year term of the state assembly.
He is undoubtedly the senior-most leader in the coalition. His experience as union home minister in V.P. Singh-headed Janata Dal government in 1989 and three-year tenure as the state chief minister from 2002 to 2005 is equalled by none, either in the PDP or the state BJP.
As president of the PDP, Mehbooba Mufti is clearly the number two in hierarchy though there are other senior leaders like Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hamid Karra.
The state BJP insiders suggest the party will not oppose the decision to nominate Mehbooba Mufti for the top job, but will definitely mount pressure for a better deal in power sharing.
"These are just speculations. Mufti Sahib is making good progress and Inshallah (God willing) he will soon be back in office," said a senior minister who is a close confidant of Sayeed.
The minister's optimism notwithstanding, the fact is that even after Sayeed is discharged from hospital with a clean bill of heath, doctors are most likely to advise him complete rest until he regains his strength.
Somebody in the PDP would have to take care of governance. If such an occasion arises, Mehbooba Mufti would be the inevitable choice for both the PDP and the BJP.
Sayeed is being tended to by a team of senior doctors for fever and breathing difficulties with antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs.
His wife Gulshan Ara, daughter Mehbooba and son Tasaduq Sayeed are among the family members attending on the chief minister in Delhi.