Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, a crafty politician who took on the powerful Abdullah family and rose to become the country’s first Muslim Home Minister, died on Thursday at a hospital here after his platelets dropped dangerously.
Sayeed, 79, who took charge of the state on March 1, 2015 heading a coalition government of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), breathed his last after remaining on ventilator for the past few days.
He was flown from Srinagar in a special plane on December 24 and admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where he was diagnosed with sepsis (life threatening complication of an infection) and pneumonia. During hospitalisation his platelets had dropped dangerously, doctors said.
He is the second chief minister from the state to die in office, the first one being Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who died on September 8, 1982.
Sayeed’s daughter 56-year-old Mehbooba is expected to take over as the first woman chief minister of the state with PDP leaders throwing their weight behind her. But this will require the approval of BJP.
Sayeed is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son.
Jammu and Kashmir government has declared a seven-day mourning and holiday on Thursday. Flags will be flown at half mast.
The National Flag will fly at half mast on Thursday as well as a mark of respect to Sayeed. A Union Home Ministry spokesman said that the government has also decided to accord state funeral to 79-year-old Sayeed in Jammu and Kashmir.
Expressing grief and sorrow over Sayeed’s death, the spokesman said, "As a mark of respect to the departed leader, the National Flag will fly at half mast on Thursday in capitals of states and Union Territories, including Delhi, and throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir."
The mortal remains of the chief minister would be flown to Srinagar where the body will be kept for people to pay homage. He is likely be buried in his ancestral village Bijbehera in South Kashmir, about 48 kms from Srinagar.
Sayeed took over as chief minister of PDP-BJP coalition on March 1 last year. In the 87-member J&K Assembly PDP won 28 seats and BJP 25 while opposition National Conference got 15 and Congress 12.
Condoling the death of Sayeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it left a huge void in the nation and that the leader who provided a healing touch would be missed.
"What stood out about Mufti Sahab was his statesmanship. In his long political journey he won many admirers across the political spectrum," Modi said.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh will be flying to Srinagar to attend Sayeed’s funeral.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari described Sayeed as a "staunch nationalist" who always worked for the development of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and devoted his entire life for the welfare of the people of all the regions of the state.
"His death has left a great void in the politics of Jammu & Kashmir. Mufti Saheb will be remembered as a great son of India," Gadkari said.
In another message, calling Mufti a "true statesman" amongst the politicians of the current era, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Mufti has passed away when the country and J&K needed him the most.
"Saddened by the death of Mufti Sahib… A true statesman amongst the politicians of the current era," Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu called Mufi an able administrator and a nationalist.
"The sudden demise of Shri Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is a great loss to the country and particularly to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"He was a nationalist and a very able administrator, besides being a person of empathy and understanding. Yesterday afternoon, I along with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley visited AIIMS where he was hospitalised and enquired about his health condition from his daughter Ms Mehbooba Mufti. I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Shri Mufti Sahab. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said the state will miss Mufti in its governance and political pursuits.
"It is a very sad news. We wanted him to guide us. Like he was doing in the last 10 months. Now it has come as a great shock for the government as well as the state. He was a national leader. He was having a vision not only in terms of Jammu and Kashmir but also of India… (it was) his inclusive approach and it was for the first time that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were feeling that it was our government.
"This government which believes in transparency… it was here… but unfortunately he is not amongst us. We were wishing early recovery for him but unfortunately this was not possible. It is very sad for us," he said.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condoled the death of Sayeed. "Just heard the terrible news of Mufti Sahib’s passing away. I’m shocked and deeply saddened. May he rest in peace," he said in a tweet. He visited AIIMS and offered his condolences to the family.
Former Union Minister Farooq Abdullah also condoled the death of Sayeed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet," V sad to hear abt Shri Mufti Mohd. Sayeed’s demise. May his soul rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family."
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said that Sayeed was a "visionary" leader.
In his message, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said that with Mufti’s death "the country has lost a soft spoken, experienced and progressive leader who worked continuously for taking Jammu and Kashmir on the path of development."