‘To do business with Delhi’, Altaf Bukhari launches Apni Party

‘Won’t promise moon and stars, will work to restore statehood’

Srinagar: Expelled PDP leader Altaf Bukhari on Sunday launched his own party, called the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), and vowed to work towards restoring J&K’s statehood and protecting domicile rights of people in jobs and education.
Downplaying the abrogation of Article 370 by the government of India, Altaf Bukhari instead offered a “core agenda” of restoration of statehood as he formally launched his new political outfit.
The former PDP leader was talking to media persons at his Lal Chowk residence where he launched his party. He was flanked by senior mainstream leaders including Ghulam Hasan Mir, Choudhry Zulfikar, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Usman Majeed and many others, who also have abandoned their respective parties to join Bukhari’s Apni Party.
“We have to do business with Delhi, whosoever rules Delhi,” Bukhari said, adding that his party wanted to “remove the mistrust between Delhi and Kashmir”.
“There are mutual misgivings that need to be removed,” he said.
While regional mainstream parties in Kashmir including NC, PDP and even the Congress have raised a hue and cry over the abrogation of Article 370 by the BJP government, Bukhari said that the Article had been already “eroded and reduced to a frame during the last more than 50 years”.
“We have to wait for the verdict of the Honorable Supreme Court,” he said, referring to the petitions filed against the abrogation of J&K’s special status.
Asked whether his party supported the BJP government’s decision to abrogate JK’s special status, Bukhari quipped, “If we don’t accept the decision, will they revoke it?”
“The petitions in this regard are in the Supreme Court, so let’s wait for the judgment,” he said.
To another question whether his new political outfit was relevant in Kashmir politics when senior mainstream leaders, especially three former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, and Bukhari’s former boss in the PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, had been detained by the government of India, Bukhari said, “Maybe my voice is not relevant today, but it will be in the coming days.”
Bukhari demanded the release of Kashmir politicians, including the three former CMs.
Asked by a reporter for his reaction on the parallels that people are drawing between him and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, who became the Chief Minister of J&K in the 1950s after the government of India detained Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Bukhari said that Bakshi had an “economic vision”.
“I think that vision is very much needed today,” Bukhari said.
To a question whether he considered the Hurriyat as a stakeholder in any dialogue on Kashmir, Bukhari said, “We consider every individual of J&K as a stakeholder”.
The Apni Party has also pledged to work for “dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits, empowerment of youth and women, and sustained and regionally balanced economic growth”.
The 60-year-old Bukhari, who is a graduate in agriculture science, was elected as president of the JKAP unanimously.
Bukhari said his party was “of the commoners, by the commoners, and for the commoners”.
“The developments which took place on August 5, 2019, brought some new questions and realities to the fore,” Bukhari said.
On August 5 last year, the Centre withdrew special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The union territories came into existence on October 31 last year.
“Though unpleasant and bitter, it is an undeniable reality that the developments which took place in August 2019, particularly the deprivation of statehood, has badly affected the self-esteem, pride and confidence of the people across Jammu and Kashmir,” Bukhari said.
Bukhari, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP government, said the developments have resulted not only in the complete breakdown of political institutions but has also stalled developmental activities.
“Hence, a sense of aggressive discontentment on one side, and an attitude of complete indifference prevails across Jammu and Kashmir on the other, which at any cost cannot be left unattended and unaddressed,” the businessman-turned-politician said.
“Our people have made huge sacrifices for nurturing the democratic spirit and an ever-evolving political process in the region. Unfortunately, we never witnessed the desired results of our toil and efforts and instead, we were failed time and again by a particular vested interest class,” he said.
“The result is that we are in a situation where we should have not been,” the former Jammu and Kashmir finance minister said.
He said that the situation demanded “a party that could respond to rational aspirations of the people without promising them the moon or stars”.
“We are not here to sell dreams or fantasies to our people, instead shall always be pragmatic, honest and fair in our approach,” Bukhari asserted at a press conference.
On abrogation of Article 370, Bukhari said the special status had already been eroded in the past 50 years. “The matter is before the Supreme Court and hence, we have to wait for the verdict,” he said.
“However, restoration of statehood, domicile rights in land and jobs, beside a holistic and an equitable development of all regions and sub-regions of Jammu and Kashmir forms the core agenda of the party (JKAP),” Bukhari said.
Bukhari said his party would be different from other parties as it was not floated by families, in an apparent reference to the NC and the PDP.
Bukhari had represented Srinagar’s Amira Kadal constituency in the last assembly of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Several former ministers and legislators joined the new outfit and were seen with Bukhari at the press conference. The prominent faces included former minister and PDP founding member Ghulam Hassan Mir, former minister and PDP general secretary Dilawar Mir, and former ministers Chowdhary Zulfiqar Ahmad, Mohammad Ahsraf Mir, Abdul Majeed Paddar, Aijaz Ahmad Khan and Usman Majeed, besides former chief secretary and ex-NC MLC Vijay Bakaya.
“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,” Bukhari said.
—With inputs from PTI

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