On the political front, J&K’s political pulse is rising with every passing day, the political developments one after another is now an indication that elections first after abrogation of Article 370 are round the corner. The polls could be held in the month of March or April next year as all the formalities from delimitation to new electoral rolls are almost complete. The BJP leadership too has hinted that elections could be held within the next five to six months.
The political developments one after another on the political landscape of UT could even throw surprises when polls will be held, especially with the entry of former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s entry into regional politics. He after resigning from Congress almost after five decades formed his own political party and named it Democratic Azad Party, though he said the party will be a national party however for the time being it looks like a fresh addition to the formation of new political parties in J&K prior to polls. He managed to rope in many senior congress leaders including former ministers and legislators in his party. Whether his party will be a successful party in J&K politics or his fate will be akin to Amrinder Singh in Punjab whose party failed to win a single seat finally compelling him to merge his party in the BJP. Though Azad who is a wily politician and has many friends across the board is trying hard to turn his new political party into a good alternative in politics of J&K though his detractors blame him for working on the agenda of BJP.
Azad is seen as a potential ally of BJP by opposite political parties of J&K, like Altaf Bukhari and Sajjad Lone. The opponents claim that post elections these three leaders could cobble up an alliance with BJP. Meanwhile, Apni Party president, Altaf Bukhari is also trying to get his Apni party strong and looking for avenues that will give his party a good number of seats to bargain power. Bukhari a former legislator from Amira Kadal left PDP along with dozens of legislators to form his own political party Apni Party that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah which became the first political outreach from J&K post abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of state into two UT’s.
Now Bukhari is using all his political acumen to win maximum seats. He has decided to contest elections from Chanpora the erstwhile Amira Kadal and Uri. He says since he belongs to Uri people compelled him to contest polls from that place. And after his announcement his native village, Muqam Peerian villagers are upbeat and say their fellow villager could become next chief minister of J&K which eventually brings prosperity in the area.
Bukhari’s village divided by a gushing water stream encircled by Kail, Deodar forests is part of the Lachipora wildlife sanctuary that’s home to the near-extinct Qazinag Markhor. The entire block has more than 2000 houses and his supporters feel all will come out in support of Bukhari as members of his extended family still live here. It was from here the Bukhari’s first shifted to Ladoora in Rafiabad – an apple rich belt in north Kashmir- and then Sheikhbagh Srinagar, however, and for the first time the elections in Uri, the border constituency became high profile with the entry of Altaf Bukhari. “The people of Uri came to me and asked why can’t I represent my birth place. I couldn’t say no to them seeing their sincerity ..” said Altaf Bukhari, president of the Apni Party. “I hope they will support me,” said Bukhari, who has made several trips to Uri. On Saturday he even met people in the constituency and discussed the development projects of the Uri.
Bukhari’s candidature could have a strong impact on seven assembly seats of Baramulla district and in four of the constituencies the party has strong prospects and chances are very much bright that could tilt the balance in favor of Apni party.
“Even when Bukhari didn’t represent us, he got Rs 21 crore road sanctioned for the entire area. And its pride for us he will represent us and we will support him and can do anything for his party,” said the president of the taxi union at Lachipora. “After this road, our area got better connectivity with other parts of Kashmir.”
Abdul Aziz Lone, panchayat member who has been voting Congress now joined Apni party said that unemployment is the biggest problem of Uri and hoped that Bukhari can solve this issue. “We have been voting outsiders who after winning the seat neglected us. Now we will vote for the son of our soil and make him win from the border seat.”
Another villager Abdul Ahad said that Bukhari’s grandfather Wali Mohammad Shah has taught religious teaching to the entire village. “The candidature of Bukhari is going to be a new connection between the family and these villages. We will ditch other parties for him as we see this as a golden opportunity for all of us. And once Bukhari gets elected, it’s going to make our place a high-profile constituency. We have a lot of hopes for him.”
Even BJP doesn’t want to lag behind as they see it as an opportunity to win seats from Kashmir for the first time and the party is silently working on seats which party leaders think they could win and boost the prospects of the party… Union home minister Amit Shah will be addressing a public meeting in Baramulla and laying the foundation for various development projects during his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir starting on October 4, people aware of the developments said on Saturday.
Shah was supposed to address the meeting on October 1, but rescheduled his plans. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership stationed in Baramulla said arrangements are being finalised for the meeting at the Degree College on October 5, expected to be attended by thousands of people. “We are stationed in Baramulla to make this meeting successful. All the arrangements have been finalized. It will be one of the biggest rallies,” BJP state spokesman, Altaf Thakur, said.
BJP state general secretary, Sunil Sharma, also in charge of Kashmir affairs, visited the venue with senior party leaders to oversee security arrangements, the people said.
This will be the BJP’s first mega show in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town since BJP came to power in centre and Shah’s second visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370. He visited Pulwama and Srinagar last year.
Besides the public meeting, the above-cited people said, Shah is likely to announce special status to the Pahari community. Like Gujjars in the Union territory, the Pahari community, for years, has been demanding a grant of special status, though the former has opposed this demand.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Pahari community have been asking their community members to make the home minister’s public meeting a successful event. The leaders have travelled to various areas where the community holds a presence to garner support for the meeting.
“We are sure that the Pahari community will get justice finally, so our leaders will be participating in the rally. The members from our community will come from across Kashmir to make this really successful,” said Rafiq Ahmad, a pahari leader from north Kashmir. Shah will also address a rally in Rajouri. By these steps, BJP leadership is hopeful of winning seats in the areas where Muslims are in good numbers. It remains to be seen whether, BJP will be able to break the jinx and win seats from Muslim majority Kashmir. Though they have sarpanches, BDC’s and DDC’s in Kashmir but BJP members getting elected on BJP post abrogation of Article 370 will be a morale booster for party cadres.
The national party is silently working on it, not only its cadres but allies too are playing fruitful roles with all eyes on J&K CM’s chair.