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Is Altaf Bukhari Playing BJP Game In J-K?

Last updated on: May 07, 2024 13:37 IST
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'The Congress backstabbed us and the BJP frontstabbed us.'
'This is the only difference between the two parties.'

IMAGE: Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party President Altaf Bukhari canvasses votes for his party's Srinagar candidate Mohammed Ashraf Mir, May 5, 2024. Photographs: Imran Nissar/ANI Photo

The Nagpur factor in the Kashmir elections has put the focus on one man, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party.

Once a close aide of Mehbooba Mufti, head of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bukhari split with her to form the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party in March 2020.

His opponents have alleged that Bukhari traveled to Nagpur to seek Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat's blessings.

Bukhari denied the allegation at an election meeting at Chaalpoora, Srinagar.

'I never went to Nagpur. If I go, I will inform and go. I am not one who will quietly do operations in the night. I do everything in the open,' Bukhari tells a crowd of 500 people assembled at Chaalpoora amid cheers.

It was not him, Bukhari adds, but the National Conference and PDP which brought the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Kashmir Valley.

'The Congress backstabbed us and the BJP frontstabbed us. This is the only difference between the two parties,' Bukhari says amidst applause from his supporters.

He is referring to how the PDP formed a government with the BJP only to be dismissed later, leading to the repeal of Article 370.

The BJP, Bukhari points out, was always open about Article 370 in its manifesto and implemented it as soon as it returned to power in 2019.

IMAGE: Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party President Altaf Bukhari holds a roadshow in Srinagar, May 5, 2024.

On the ground his followers know that if there is one man who can get work done for Kashmiris, it is Bukhari.

And in their opinion this cannot be possible without the blessings of the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi and the RSS headquartered in Nagpur.

The Apni Party is contesting two seats in the parliamentary elections.

Mohammad Ashraf Mir is contesting from Srinagar while Zafar Iqbal Manhas is contesting from Anantnag-Rajouri against Mehbooba Mufti.

"The drainage problem in our area was unresolvable. It was Altaf Bukhari who solved it. He gets work done," says Surinder Pal Singh.

"Kashmir was run by two parties earlier, the NC and the PDP, who unfortunately did not do much for the state. We want a new face and Altaf is that new face," Singh adds.

The BJP, which is contesting more than 400 seats across India, has not fielded a candidate against the Apni Party in Kashmir.

Ravindra Raina, who heads the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, has stated that his party will support patriotic parties in the Kashmir Valley but did not name anyone, leading to speculation that the BJP supports the Apni Party in Srinagar and Anantnag-Rajouri.

In Baramulla, the BJP is indirectly supporting Sajjad Lone's People's Conference.

In 2019 when the Modi wave swept India, BJP candidates lost elections in Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri.

The BJP is trying to build a narrative that the people of Kashmir need to rout family-based parties like the NC and PDP and therefore it is keeping away from contesting elections in the Valley.

This is why someone like Altaf Bukhari becomes important.

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