|Early Times Report|
Jammu, Feb 17: As the political stalemate continues in Jammu and Kashmir for more than six months after the abrogation of Article 370, a group of political leaders, led by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari, are set to float a new regional party.
Bukhari, who was expelled from the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for "anti-party activities", is likely to make an announcement about the formation of the new group by the end of this month in Srinagar, sources told .
Most of the leaders, who are likely to join the new formation are former legislators and ministers of the PDP while a few leaders from Congress, National Conference and other smaller groups are also expected to be part of the new formation.
Bukhari, who had emerged as the mutual candidate for the post of Chief Minister after PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had staked claim to form the government in November 2018, with the support of the NC and the Congress legislators started confabulations to structure a new party following the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 last August.
While confirming the development, Bukhari, a businessman-turned-politician, said, “Yes, a new political party will be formed. Many leaders from other parties are going to join this party. Young professionals, lawyers, social activists will also be part of our new group.”
“We have formed a committee to draft the constitution of the new party,” he said. Bukhari clarified that the new party doesn’t consist of only former legislators and ministers, “but new faces will also be inducted in the podium.”
In an apparent reference to Abdullahs of the NC and Muftis of the PDP, he said, “It is a peoples’ party and there is no person in the party who have inherited politics. It is not an elite club where only an elite will be invited. I even appeal to people from all walks of life to come forward and pull out Jammu and Kashmir from the morass.”
Sources said at least 30 leaders, who have been participating in confabulations regarding the structuring of the new political podium in J&K, so far have joined Bukhari.
A former legislator from Amira Kadal constituency in Srinagar, he served as R&B, education and finance minister during the PDP-BJP coalition government from March 2015 to June 2018. Originally hailing from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, Bukhari joined the PDP in 2004 and was considered close to party founder and former chief minister late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
He is one of Jammu and Kashmir’s top businessmen and had served as the PDP’s treasurer or many years. However, after Sayeed’s death and the Mehbooba Mufti’s elevation as Chief Minister, Bukhari was sidelined for some time, but after pressure from legislators and workers, he was given the important portfolio of education in the cabinet. But soon after the fall of the Mehbooba-led government, he started to hobnob with the BJP top brass and was among a few local politicians, who were not jailed after the revocation of Article 370 on August 5 last year.