"It is for PDP to decide who will be their leader," BJP vice president and its Jammu and Kashmir in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna told reporters when asked about his party's stand on Mehbooba succeeding her father, who died earlier in the day at New Delhi's AIIMS.

"Our alliance is with PDP," Rai added, indicating it was the coalition's senior ally's prerogative to choose the leader for the top job.

56-yeard-old Mehbooba, who is the PDP's president, has had her share of detractors in the saffron ranks for several reasons, including her passionate espousal of her party's 'self-rule' concept, which used to be dubbed "as soft separatism" by many in the BJP. Sources said the sudden death of Sayeed leaves BJP with little choice but to go with his obvious successor.

"It was one thing for her to take over from her father when he was still around and totally another when he is gone. She is the obvious choice," they said, adding that both parties had invested a lot in bringing about an alliance that was seen as improbable.

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