With all the 28 PDP MLAs backing her, Mehbooba’s transition as chief minister is expected to be a smooth affair. The BJP would also back her. For long, she has been the face of the PDP, and has strenuously built-it up as an alternative to the National Conference of the Abdullahs. Like her father who was a Congressman to begin with, Mehbooba, a law graduate and single mother to two young daughters, contested elections the first time as a Congress candidate in 1996. Suddenly, all of Kashmir knew her. Mehbooba, who is now 56, plunged into politics when the state started its electoral process after six years of governor’s rule in 1996. As Sayeed, then state Congress chief, could not find many candidates to represent the party, wife Gulshan Ara and daughter Mehbooba contested the polls. While the couple lost, Mehbooba won the South Kashmir seat. But when the senior Mufti decided to part ways with the Congress in 1999, it was the firebrand Mehbooba who took on the burden of building the new party from scratch.
Then in her 40s, Mehbooba read the popular pulse and played the soft-separatist card. The party’s flag was loosely based on the election symbol of the Muslim United Front (MUF), a fierce political rival of the National Conference (NC). The senior Sayeed reappeared on the political stage during the 2002 assembly elections and the PDP made a big leap and formed the government in coalition with the Congress, despite the NC emerging as the largest party in terms of seats won in the polls. In the three years of PDP’s rule, Mehbooba became the saner voice of the party, differing with her own party at times. But she along with current MP and PDP co-founder Tariq Hamid Karra played a part in breaking the Congress-PDP coalition in 2008 after a controversial land transfer to the Amarnath shrine. Now, when she takes over as chief minister, it is likely that Muzaffar Hussain Baig would become the party chief.