Bukhari launches Apni Party in Srinagar, Congress calls it an extension of BJP
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said “Bukhari was the only political leader who was not detained by the government post August 5 as he was the blue eyed boy of BJP and New Delhi".
On Sunday afternoon, former Jammu and Kashmir minister Mohammad Altaf Bukhari finally pulled it off. He cobbled together many fomer lawmakers and leaders from Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) National Confrence ( NC), and Congress, and launched his own party called Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party in Srinagar.
Bukhari, a cash-rich business man turned politician, hails from the apple-rich town of Sopore. He made his formal foray into politics after he won 2014 assembly election from the important Amira Kaldal seat on a PDP ticket. The constituency had sent National Conference candidates to assembly five times since 1972.
Former minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari unveils the flag of newly floated party 'Apni Party' in Srinagar on Sunday.2. Former minister of Jammu and Kashmir and President of newly floated party'Apni Party' Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari addresses media in Sgr pic.twitter.com/KnUfs4Q3Lf— Zahoor Punjabi (@ZahoorPunjabi) March 8, 2020
Bukhari held key portfolios like Finance and Public Works during the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coailtion government and was known for his proximity to Mufti. Weeks after the ruling dispensation nullified the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year, rumours about the formation of a new platform with Bukhari as its architect flew thick and fast in the region.
Since the August 5 move, the formation of the JKAP is seen as the first big development on the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP had edged Bukhari out of the party last month after he met with a delegation of foreign envoys in Srinagar.
Bukhari made it clear that his party would strive for the things which it believed were achievable. He told Asiaville that his party would struggle to protect the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on land and employment, and on getting the lost statehood back.
"There is much mistrust between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and New Delh, and we will work to remove it", said Bukhari " Every sector of the Valley got badly hit after August 5. Our business community suffered huge losses. We will try to restore normalcy and at least give some relief to people".
Speaking to journalists on the launch of his party, Bukhari said that the August 5 move had badly affected the people across the Jammu and Kashmir. "It is an undeniable reality that the development that took place on August 5, 2019, particularly the deprivation of state autonomy, has badly affected the self esteem, pride and confidence of the people", Bukhari said.
Jammu and Kashmir gets new party Jammu Kashmir Apni Party. Will it be able to stand against the might of family concerns like NC, PDP, etc pic.twitter.com/TZzBZVET2v— Deepika Bhan (@deepikakbhan) March 8, 2020
He said that the move had not only spurred the complete breakdown of political institutions but also stalled purposeful and result oriented developmental activity.
"The people of Jammu and Kashmir have every right to envision a fully democratic and civilised democratic society where they can live in peace and harmony", Bukhari told a big group of roughly 40 journalists.
Bukhari said his party would not sell fantasies or dreams but be pragmatic in its approach. About the revocation of the special position of Jammu and Kashmir, Bukhari said, "The matter is in the domian of the judiciary and we have to await the verdict of the Supreme Court.”
He added that development, the dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits and empowerment of youth and women would be on the agenda of his party.
Leaders who joined JKAP
Before the launch of JKAP, Bukhari was elected the president of the party on Saturday. As many as 39 known political leaders, including formers ministers and lawmakers from across Jammu and Kashmir, joined the new political outfit.
Ghulam Hassan Mir, a former minister and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Democraic Party ( Nationalist) merged his party with JKAP. Two former PDP ministers, Mohammad Dilawar Mir and Abdul Majeed Paddar along with nine other law makers have joined the party.
Three former Congress ministers--Manjeet Singh, Aijaz Ahmad Khan and Usman Majeed--and three lawmakers have also joined the new politcal outfit. Three former lawmakers including the political advisor of Dr Farooq Abdullah, Vijay Bakaya deserted the party and joined Bukhari in his new political venture.
How other political parties react
While the PDP billed the formation of the new political group as a democratic right of Bukhari, NC and Congress see the development rather differently.
"It is the democratic right of any individual to form a political party. I wish them luck", said former PDP secretary Nizam -u-Din-Bhat.
NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said that the leaders who joined the party had no principled stand as they kept on changing the parties. He sees the party as the creation of New Delhi. “It is not Apni party; it is Delhi's party," Dar told Asiaville.
Similarly, state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir described the JKAP as an extension of BJP. “Bukhari was the only political leader who was not detained by the government post August 5 as he was the blue eyed boy of BJP and New Delhi", Mir added.
Political observers in the Valley say that the legitimacy of the party could be called into the question. "Although the party can give representation to the people, it will face a legitimacy crisis as it was launched at a time when the key political leaders are under detention", said Shahnawaz Ahmad, a political observer and Kashmir watcher of long standing.