Towards the end of last year, former finance minister Altaf Bukhari played a key role in forging an alliance between National Conference, PDP and Congress. The parties made an unsuccessful attempt at forming a government in the state.
A businessman-turned-politician, Bukhari had, however, gone silent after his expulsion from PDP in January this year. But, for the past several days, he has been holding meetings with workers of his constituency, Amira Kadal, giving rise to speculations about his next move.
In an exclusive chat with Greater Kashmir, Bukhari talked about the importance of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and the candidate he is going to support from Srinagar seat. Excerpts:
There were speculations that you may form a ‘third front’ or float your own party?
I am not a politician who would want to remain glued to power. My power is my people. I am not forming any front which will divide Kashmiris. I have not formed any political party. Had that been the case I could have done that without waiting for such a long time. In a democratic set-up, I don’t believe a public representative should be or act as a dictator.
I will share my future plans with my people first and after holding threadbare consultations with my workers, a consensus will be evolved regarding the future course of action. My people have reposed trust in me by tendering their resignation and snapping their age old relationship with a party. I respect their sacrifice and cannot take them for a ride by considering their trust as my personal fiefdom. I am not the one who will take any unilateral decision without taking my workers on board.
How important are parliament elections for J&K?
The ongoing Lok Sabha elections are decisive in nature for the country, particularly J&K. These polls assume significance in view of designs by some elements and groups to sabotage interests of the state. It is no more a secret that efforts are on by vested groups to dilute the special constitutional status of J&K by tinkering with Article 35A. In its manifestos, BJP has pledged to abrogate Article 370, which forms the core of our accession with Union of India.
Our autonomy is enshrined in the Constitution of India and there can’t be any compromise on it. This should be a matter of serious concern for all of us as citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
One of the invisible designs of the vested interests has been to divide Kashmiri voice by fragmentation of votes so that those elements come to power who can try to bring changes to our special position guaranteed under law and change demography of J&K for larger political designs. That is why the ongoing parliamentary elections are important.
Are you going to support any party during polls to Srinagar-Budgam constituency? Has any party approached you for your support?
After holding threadbare discussions with my workers and electorate of Amirakdal constituency and weighing all options, I have decided to support Farooq Abdullah (National Conference candidate) who is a seasoned politician and the best choice from candidates contesting the elections from the Srinagar constituency.
This is also because he has at least by his association with Congress and other secular forces played a pivotal role in including revocation of AFSPA in the Congress manifesto. Besides, he has categorically pledged to protect and safeguard the Article 370 and Article 35A from the onslaught of rightwing parties.
I have asked my supporters to vote for him during the upcoming elections and I sincerely appeal the electorate of Srinagar parliamentary constituency to vote for him in view of the present fragile political situation in the country and the state. I am sure that Dr Abdullah will call a spade a spade when it comes to the interests of J&K.
What are your plans for next Assembly elections in J&K? Are you joining National Conference or any other political party or you will contest the elections as an independent candidate?
As of now there is no word from anywhere on timing of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also ironical that while Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are jointly held in many states, J&K has been treated separately.
So far, I have not decided on the Assembly elections. But as I already said that I shall abide by suggestions of my workers and supporters and a consensus decision shall be followed that will be taken by sitting with my workers ahead of the Assembly polls.
I believe in grassroots level democracy in letter and spirit. Ultimately, it is the people of my constituency whose interests are supreme for me. And any decision vis-à-vis Assembly elections would be taken solely in the interests of my constituency and its people.
You were seen as an architect behind bringing PDP, NC and Congress together to form the government and, according to reports, you were a consensus chief ministerial candidate.
Why didn’t the plan go through? This is history now. Everybody, especially politically mature Kashmiris, knows, what went wrong and why J&K Assembly was dissolved, dramatically, during late night hours. I will not repeat the sequence of those events. But one thing is for sure that time has come to bury the hatchet and other narrow political considerations and give support to the voices that are explicit and sharp when it comes to the interests of Jammu and Kashmir, especially with regard to its special identity.
People should also use their franchise cautiously on the basis of promises versus performance of the present MPs who were elected to parliament with high hopes, but failed to raise their voice on the floor of the country’s highest seat. That trend should not get repeated, otherwise it will prove detrimental to our collective cause.