21 years after Mufti's call: The little known story of Tassaduq's narrow escape from political scene

Zafar Choudhary. Updated: 12/29/2017 2:07:28 AM

ZAFAR CHOUDHARY

JAMMU: It was a rainy day in the monsoons of 1996 when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed returned home -Congress -after eight years of estrangement during which he created the history of being India's first and last Muslim to man the Home Ministry. The 'homecoming' ceremony took place in New Delhi at a time when Jammu and Kashmir was in the middle of electoral festivity after six years of Raj Bhawan administration.
Ghulam Rasool Kar, Mangat Ram Sharma and Janak Raj Gupta were among the leaders who held the Congress forte when surviving as politician in Jammu and Kashmir was difficult. By the time of Mufti's re-joining, the Congress had distributed almost all tickets for the state Assembly elections in which National Conference had a nationwide moral support but the Congress and BJP had made up mind to contest well. On the day of joining Congress, Mufti put out an irreversible condition -assembly candidates would be of his choice!
It was an awkward situation but the Congress was contesting these elections in its famous 'national interest' and Mufti was seen as key power driver in that direction. The condition was agreed to. There was chaos in the state Congress. Even some of those who decided tickets for others lost theirs as they didn't fit in Mufti's strategic plan for the Congress revival.
After settling down issues here and there, Mufti looked at his proverbial pocket borough of South Kashmir. The Valley was hostile to Congress and the party didn't have any emotive plank to match up National Conference's Greater Autonomy dream. Mufti needed a few seats, at least from South Kashmir, to justify the importance Congress accorded to him in the middle of election flurry.
There were quite a few diehard Mufti loyalists in South Kashmir but the mood suggested that a member of Mufti family stood better prospects of winning. Unlike the Abdullahs, Mufti used to keep his family away from the political glare. Rubiya Sayeed became known in unfortunate circumstances but not many people knew about Mufti's other children. Until quite recently very few people would know about Tassaduq.
Back to 1996. Who could have been member of the Mufti family to jump into poll fray? In our patriarchal society, son becomes the obvious choice. Mufti touched base with Tassaduq who was away in the United States pursuing interest in filmatography. As the father-son conversations took off, Tassaduq made it known that he didn't think of politics. Mufti insisted and eventually prevailed. A highly reluctant Tassaduq agreed. It was a relief for Mufti who decided to field him in Bijbehara. Papers were prepared for filing but the situation changed in Tassaduq's favour -he was over six months short of the eligibility age of 25-year to be able to contest assembly elections.
Mehbooba, Mufti's eldest daughter, in the beginning of her executive career watched these developments as an outsider from inside. She is believed to have volunteered to take the Bijbehara challenge. Mufti fielded his wife, Mrs Gulshan Akhtar, from Pahalgam. This underlined the stakes Mufti had in the political developments around that time.
National Conference made a sweep across South Kashmir with Mehbooba [Congress] and MY Tarigami [CPI(M)] as only exceptions. Her visibility in the polls was hardly of any significance. It was Mufti's confidence that won. But as the Assembly convened, after a long gap of six years, Farooq Abdullah recognised sitting opposite to him a fiery orator, a woman who was the leader and not the back-bencher.
In Mehbooba, Mufti found a companion, a colleague, a trusted lieutenant and perhaps a great infrastructure of conviction, ideas and energy as the father-daughter duo shaped up their own party three years later.
The Peoples Democratic Party was formed in 1999, Mufti became Chief Minister in 2002, Mehbooba Mufti became a leader of the stature to be quoted thrice by Condoleezza Rice, the party went through many ups and downs before coming to power again in 2015 but Tassaduq was never spotted in the power corridors until two years ago when he is reported to have advised the father and sister on a few things related to floriculture, heritage, tourism and city traffic in Srinagar. There is no public knowledge of signing recommendations or getting Ministers to his place. Association with a promo on Kashmir tourism was one the highlights bringing him to spotlight.
It was upon Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's demise in January 2016, that Tassaduq arrived on the public scene as a conspicuous source of strength to Mehbooba, the natural successor to Mufti's legacy. His joining active politics on first death anniversary of Mufti was a less expected but much desired developments in inner circles of PDP.
A lot has changed in 21 years, since Mufti wanted Tassaduq to be in politics but situation for him is more challenging now than it could have been then.


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