New Delhi: Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has dropped broad hints that his daughter, Mehbooba, would shortly succeed him to the chief ministry of Jammu and Kashmir. How should the rest of India take this news? With hopefulness and fortitude.

It is nice that J and K will have a first chance to have a woman chief minister. This writer met Mehbooba at the inception of her political career, and there is not much takeaway to offer from that first and only meeting.

But her subsequent career contains several pointers, and she would have to understand that governance is an altogether different proposition from being an opposition leader. She could say and do what she wished in the second role, but public office comes with huge constraints and burdens.

Public office teaches you never to underestimate the demands of good governance, in which most political leaders fail. Winning elections is a one-time affair per term. Luck, a good campaign, good candidates, and a knack to turn disadvantage to its opposite would sail you through. Governance, on the other hand, insists on daily application, fashioning a just and successful narrative out of imperfect vision, and a majority of politicians fail in the task.

The older generation of politicians understood this better than young ones do. This writer is not impressed with even one young chief minister. Akhilesh Yadav has thrown away the opportunity of a lifetime. In J and K itself, Omar Abdullah turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. He was adept at putting a few words together for Twitter but hopeless at governance. He rarely left his official quarters or office premises and functioned exclusively through bureaucrats. He even lost touch with his own party. At his worst, his father was not so bad. He maintained a deep bond with his people.

This is not an area where Mehbooba Mufti is deficient. But governance is about balancing interests and managing contradictions and creating a viable and constructive narrative. Good governance is really the best part of politics. It is what redeems politics. Mehbooba has been given to playing off one constituency against another, and has at times sided with fringe interests opposed to the Indian constitutional framework within which Jammu and Kashmir gets its statehood. She has to put herself at a conspicuous distance from all this past and adhere to one and only thing: good governance. It is what she will be remembered for. Margaret Thatcher turned around England. It makes her Britain’s best post-war Prime Minister. It is her undeniable legacy.

As chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti would have to downplay her Kashmiri political identity and embrace all the three regions of the state equally. Mufti Sayeed is from the old school and needs no advice and caution on this issue. Mehbooba would need reminding from time to time until justice to all regions of Jammu and Kashmir flow naturally from her administration.

For the rest, Indian democracy is supple and strong to handle any manner of waywardness.