Updated: March 10, 2020 7:11:03 am
The formation of the new Jammu & Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) is no surprise. It has been in the works for months, even years, counting all the attempts by the BJP to form a government with a rump of the People’s Democratic Party in the last four years. The first attempt could be said to have been in 2016, when Mehbooba Mufti seemed in two minds on continuing the alliance with the BJP. JKAP leader Altaf Bukhari led that failed coup too. In 2018, after the BJP pulled out of the coalition government, it fished for possibilities of forming a new government from the existing legislators before the Assembly was dissolved. The difference is that this time, there seems to be no fig leaf of democratic dissent that JKAP members can claim for their coming together against the leadership of their parent parties. The birth of this new outfit takes place in a political void, at a time when the top leadership of the PDP and the National Conference are under detention, and are unable to respond politically to the dismemberment of their parties. That the JKAP will be closely aligned to the BJP seems to be a given.
Despite the claim of the coming into existence of a new or “naya Kashmir” after the nullification of Article 370, the JKAP is deja vu for the Valley. J&K is no stranger to parties that have been created by the Centre for marginalising the regional political leadership. Though the BJP loves to say that the Congress messed up Kashmir, it has followed in the footsteps of the Congress in terms of its own political tactics. In 1953, Nehru, who the BJP holds responsible for much that is wrong in the country today, jailed Kashmir’s tallest political figure, NC leader Sheikh Abdullah and installed a puppet regime led by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed. History records it as the “original sin”, Delhi’s first big blunder in Kashmir. In 1984, the Congress government at the Centre broke the National Conference and replaced Farooq Abdullah’s government with one led by his brother-in-law, GM Shah.
The real test of the JKAP’s credibility will come only when the senior-most Kashmiri politicians are released from detention and can lead their parties once again. The new party will be watched. After all, the PDP, which came up in 1998, was born out of a need to cut the NC to size, and then evolved. Sooner than later, JKAP too will face the same question that has haunted all mainstream politicians in the Valley: Whose party is it, anyway?
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