Bukhari’s Rally

APNI Party’s massive rally in Srinagar  on Saturday has heralded the return of some political activity to the Valley amid the anticipation of Assembly elections being likely held early next year. Speaking at the rally, the party’s president  Altaf Bukhari, industrialist turned politician, urged the centre to restore statehood and hold elections without any further delay. He once again warned people against “misleading” demand made by the parties like National Conference and the PDP for the return of J&K’s autonomy, saying revocation of Article 370 was a fait accompli. Bukhari spoke out against the bloodshed in Kashmir, where thousands have died during the turmoil of the past thirty years, urging the people they should accept that their destiny lies with India.

Apni Party was founded early in March 2020 to fill in the vacuum created by the then absence of established political parties like the NC and the PDP, most of whose leaders were in detention at the time. Ever since,  the  Party has struggled to find spontaneous support among people, a perception, it has tried to dispel with the Srinagar rally. However, a political rally and the number of people attending it is not necessarily reflective of the public support for any party, more so, in Kashmir.

The Apni Party has since been overtaken by the People’s Conference (PC) which has cornered most of the defecting leaders from the PDP and also some from the NC.  This has helped expand the PC’s base across Kashmir, making it a formidable Kashmir based party  – albeit only theoretically so far.

But the PC’s party seems to have, in turn, been spoilt by Democratic Azad Party (DAP) launched by the former veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.  The advent of the DAP has further complicated the political scene in the Valley. Azad can be a viable challenger to both the BJP and the Kashmir-based parties.  Some even see him as a future chief minister, a  turn of events probably enabled by the BJP. Should he get more seats, the former Congress leader is also seen as a favourite to form the government with the support of Kashmir-based parties.   But for now, both analyses are in the realm of speculation.

With the rally in Srinagar, Bukhari, however, has shown that he can pull the crowds. But does his message resonate with people? It can be anybody’s guess. . Whether he can convert the crowds at the rally into votes in a free and fair election? This can only be known when elections are held.  For now, however, Apni Party’s Srinagar rally only signals the return of normal electoral politics to the Valley.

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