Ex minister Syed Mushtaq Bukhari resigns from NC for ‘Pahari cause’

"I’ve never been greedy about it. During my hey-days in politics, I was offered crores but I never fell for it. I’ve always stood for Paharis and will always do so."
"I’ve never been greedy about it. During my hey-days in politics, I was offered crores but I never fell for it. I’ve always stood for Paharis and will always do so."File/ GK

Jammu: Senior National Conference (NC) leader and former minister Syed Mushtaq Ahmed Bukhari on Tuesday tendered his resignation from the basic membership of the party, citing his “untenable relationship” with the leadership over differences vis-a-vis “Pahari cause.”

Considered to be one of the tallest Pahari leaders from Pir Panchal sub region of Jammu region, Bukahri said that he had to sever his association with the party that lasted over forty years due to party president’s “insistence upon” him to refrain from raking up the Pahari cause.

“For me, there can be no compromise on the demand for ST status for Paharis, hence this decision. They, with whom we’ve spent over forty years, are negating our cause, so how can we still stay with them? This is hurtful for me too but I’ve no choice and I’ve resigned,” Bukhari said, while speaking to Greater Kashmir.

Bukhari’s resignation, on a day the Delimitation Commission got a second extension for two-months, came as the third major set-back for the National Conference in Jammu region in the past six months. Earlier in October last year, its two political heavy-weights from the region viz., Devender Rana and Surjit Singh Slathia quit NC.

Meanwhile, National Conference provincial president Rattan Lal Gupta, when contacted by Greater Kashmir, with a query as to whether his resignation was accepted by the party or not, simply feigned ignorance about it (resignation by Bukhari).

“Where is the question of accepting the resignation when it has not reached us? So far, we too have been hearing about it through the media only. None from the party is in receipt of this, presumably not even the party president. Being the provincial president, with certainty, I can tell you that the Jammu provincial headquarter has not received any such letter,” Gupta said.

Are the two sides in touch over this issue? Responding to it, Gupta stated, “That issue will arise when we get something in writing.”

“I hereby tender my resignation from the basic membership of the party. You are well aware that I have been a party loyalist and have stood by it through thick and thin but your constant insistence on me foregoing the Pahari cause has made this relationship untenable for me. I thank you for everything and wish you well,” Bukhari wrote to the NC president in his brief resignation letter, a copy of which was also sent to the party vice president and general secretary.

Was the demand for “Pahari status” the only reason behind this major decision?

When asked this, Bukhari said, “Yes, this is the only reason. Otherwise I’ve always shared a very cordial relationship with the party leadership. I don’t belong to that class of politicians, who are associated with politics for the sake of money or status.

I’ve never been greedy about it. During my hey-days in politics, I was offered crores but I never fell for it. I’ve always stood for Paharis and will always do so.

We’ve been struggling for the last four decades for this (ST status) as our Pahari youth are lagging behind on all development indices in employment or economical status when compared to Gujjars, who are quite well-off.

Our youth are getting over-aged. We demanded it from every government at the Centre which would confer this right upon us. Only the central government is competent to give that status to us.”

If the issue is with the Centre, then what has made him resign from NC? What was the trigger-point?

Responding to this query, Bukhari averred, “Just two-three days ago, we had a meeting of all J&K Pahari leaders. There were 20-25 ex-MLAs, cutting across party affiliations (including NC and BJP), also in the meeting. I was chairing this meeting convened to deliberate that we should go to New Delhi yet again to plead our cause. J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina was also sitting with me. He is also a Pahari leader and his party is favouring ST status for Paharis. NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah, in reference to this meeting, commented. He did not like it and sharing his disapproval of the same, he accused me of hobnobbing with the BJP. His (Dr Farooq’s) comment was – ‘He (Raina) was sitting with you. You have left NC and joined BJP’.”

“Peeved over this remark, I said- “Not to talk of BJP, if Paharis get ST status from RSS, we (Paharis) will go with them.” He (Dr Farooq) did not say anything further on this account. But I took my call. I believe that my obligation, my debt is only towards my electorate, who reposed faith in me and made me MLA twice and thus gave an opportunity to serve them as minister also thrice,” said Bukhari, who represented NC from Surankote constituency in the erstwhile J&K Legislative Assembly.

Is he optimistic about ST status for Paharis in the wake of developments, as they unfolded in the recent past with special reference to Delimitation Commission draft proposals recommending nine seats reserved for ST community?

“Yes, I’m optimistic. Yes, we’re hopeful that they (present ruling dispensation at the Centre) will grant ST status to Paharis. Probably that’s their compulsion also. They want to make Dogra-Gujjar-Pahari a formidable combination to end dominance of the other region to suit their political interests. We understand NC’s compulsion also as none wants to annoy Gujjars. We’re not against them (Gujjars) but we should also get our due,” he said.

What next? Will he join the BJP now? Answer to the obvious query was, “No. Right now, no such plans are there. If they give us ST status, we’ll vote for them to ensure their victory. To get ST status, we can go to any extent. But at the same time, there’s no looking back vis-a-vis resignation. I’ll not backtrack.”

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