Why Abdullahs' release is an existential crisis for Apni Party
Release of Abdullahs has created an existential question for the newly launched Apni Party led by businessman turned politician Altaf Bukhari. With Abdullah's' National Conference resuming political activity to be hopefully followed later by the PDP, there are likely to be fewer takers for Bukhari’s party that is believed to have been created by New Delhi as an alternative to the NC and the PDP.
Soon after the release of Dr Farooq Abdullah, J&K administration has freed the son Omar Abdullah by similarly revoking the Public Safety Act against him. The move is billed as one more Confidence Building Measure to make peace with Kashmir's alienated political leadership. Like his father, Omar in his interaction with media didn't say anything remotely critical of Centre's 370 move - albeit, he promised to speak about it in detail in future.
"The difficulties that the people in the Valley have faced, the way they were jailed in their houses, I had thought about talking about this when I am released. But I am aware that we are fighting a bigger battle today. We are fighting a war of life and death," Omar told reporters referring to COVID-19 outbreak.
"We should follow government orders. We should maintain social distancing. We should cooperate with the government. I will talk about the politics of this state and what was done to it on August 5 later on".
He emerged from the jail sporting a long grey beard that he has grown over the past eight months apparently as a mark of protest.
Later on, Omar posted a series of tweets from home which generally dwelt on the ongoing fight against Coronavirus.
"We face the fight of our lives over the next few weeks & months as we come to terms & work to defeat #COVIDー19. I will do everything in my individual capacity to help the authorities overcome this challenge & I appeal to all of you to do the same," read one of his tweets.
In the days and weeks to come, Omar's behaviour will be keenly watched, even though the focus on preventing the spread of coronavirus may momentarily relegate politics to the background.
That said, the release of the father-son duo is likely to alter the dynamics of the situation. It is not clear how long will it be before they resume their political activity. And what will be its nature? Will they take on an antagonistic line towards Centre as can be expected considering their long-standing political position on Article 370. Or will they choose to be more restrained in pressing their demand? These are the questions whose answers may come in the near future.
Release of Abdullahs has also created an existential question for the newly launched Apni Party led by businessman turned politician Altaf Bukhari. With Abdullah's' National Conference resuming political activity to be hopefully followed later by the PDP, there are likely to be fewer takers for Bukhari’s party that is believed to have been created by New Delhi as an alternative to the NC and the PDP. Where would this leave the members of the Apni Party who joined it after quitting the established parties? Or, one can even say what was the need for a new political party in J&K when New Delhi has returned to the old guard?
True, the purpose behind establishing Apni Party is apparently to bring Kashmir politics closer to New Delhi's line on the union territory. Centre wants the Valley's leaders to reconcile to post-Article 370 reality and this is what has been sought to be achieved through the establishment of Apni Party. But the only way the Apni Party would be expected to garner a degree of relevance is by protecting it from the challenge by the established parties that would have given it an easier shot at power in a future election.
But this is no longer possible. Going by the release of Abdullahs, it is only a matter of time before other senior leaders including Mehbooba are freed. This will pave the way for the established parties to resume their political activity. But what remains a matter of great curiosity is the nature of their politics. Will they go back to their politics that was pro-New Delhi but also considered Kashmir a conflict that needed to be resolved. Or will they too reconcile to post August 5 reality? The coming weeks and months will make it clear.