SRINGAR – Seven months after the centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, a new political formation has taken shape in the newly-designated union territory. Led by former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, the new outfit includes members mostly from the PDP and Congress besides a few from the National Conference.
JK Apni Party (JKAP) will, according to Bukhari, pitch for restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and ensure domicile rights in education and jobs.
Flanked by former ministers and MLAs, Bukhari announced that the new party was an outfit “of the commoners, by the commoners and for the commoners”.
“We are not here to sell dreams and fantasies, but will always be pragmatic, honest and fair in our approach. We are here to solve problems of people,” the Bukhari told a news conference at his Sheikh Bagh residence.
Bukhari said that “We are a regional party with a national outlook.”
A host of mainstream politicians joined Bukhari’s party at his Sheikhbagh Srinagar residene. Among the list were PDP’s Javed Hussain Beg, Chowdary Zulifkar, Dilawar Mir, Noor Mohammed Sheikh, Muhammad Ashraf Mir, Zaffar Manhas, Abdul Majid Paddar, Abdul Rahim Rather, National Conference’s Vijay Bakaya and Rafi Mir; Usman Majid, Manjeet Singh and Vikram Malhotra of Congress; BJP’s Gagan Bhagat and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir.
While making the announcement, Bukhari said, “It is a very happy occasion that finally we have come up with our party known as Apni Party. It puts a lot of responsibility on us as the expectations and challenges are huge. I assure people of Jammu and Kashmir that my will is strong.”
He also added that his first priority is to provide relief to people who have been facing uncertainty since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
We are not here to sell dreams and fantasies’
“I am in politics accidentally but my idea of politics is different. I believe that it is a place where you can serve people to the best of your abilities,” said businessman-turned-politician Bukhari.
He said that Apni Party would comprise of old and new face and everyone will work for the betterment of Jammu and Kashmir.
While evading a direct reply on the abrogation of Article 370, he asked: “If I don’t accept the abrogation of Article 370, will the decision change?”
According to Bukhari nothing can be achieved by opposing the move of central government. “It will not bring any fruit. We must wait for the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Bukhari said that: “We have resolved to create a political platform where people are real stake-holders of the political process,” he said adding that his party will seek to preserve the self respect and dignity of the people of erstwhile state, dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits, empowerment of youth and women.
The government of India on August 5 last year revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, which came into existence on October 31 in 2019.
“People are facing a lot of problems, the need is to work to ease their difficulties,” he said.
“We have to do business with Delhi irrespective of who is ruling,” he added.
“We want to end the mistrust between Srinagar and New Delhi,” he said. “We are at a stage where Kashmir and Jammu both demand statehood and domicile rights for its citizens.”
“If we don’t raise our issues, who will do it for us?” he asked.
If we don’t raise our issues, who will do it for us?”
Bukhari said the party’s core agenda would be the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and its residents’ domicile rights in land and jobs.
He said, the issues like self rule and autonomy do not figure on the agenda of ‘Apni Party’. “Its sole purpose is to strive for development and politics of truth.”
About his role being likened to former J&K Prime Minister Ghulam Mohammad Bakhshi, who stepped in after Sheikh Abdullah was jailed in 1953 by Jawahar Lal Nehru, he said Bakhshi had an economic vision, and such a vision is the dire need of the present times.
Bakhshi sahab had an economic vision, and such a vision is the dire need of the present times.
The formation of new political outfit is seen as the beginning of a political process in the region which has remained in a political limbo after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A last year.
Bukhari rubbished rumours of him going behind the backs of mainstream Kashmiri leaders like Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti to form his own party, taking advantage of their house arrest saying, “It’s an open thing we didn’t do any activity clandestinely. We met the Lieutenant Governor, the media persons, everyone, openly.”
“We were waiting for last seven months hoping that the leaders will come out and raise the issues being faced by the people. But, as most of the leaders who were under detention have been released, they preferred to keep quite instead of raising the issues. Therefore, we decided to come up with an alternative to speak for the people,” Bukhari said.
Evading questions on the role of separatists in Kashmir, Bukhari said, “This is not a question, I am a regional party. I will talk about my people and their sufferings to go. How they will go is for the Government of India to see.”
The businessman-turned politician, who was made president of API a day earlier, made it clear that the party was not power hungry and wanted to work for the common people.
Bukhari said that this party is not floated by a family and there will be total restriction that anybody who becomes president of the party cannot be elected more than two times.
Bukhari had represented the city’s Amirakadal constituency in the last assembly of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“I do not see elections happening anytime soon. It may take at least a year or so. Let us work for the people till then,” he said.
‘Forget the Past’
Meanwhile a former Minister who was present at the news conference asked people to forget the past and think about future.
Ghulam Hasan Mir, a founding member of PDP, who formally joined ‘Apni Party’ said: “Past is dead and people should forget about it and think about the future.”__Kashmir Observer