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Did Altaf Bukhari win his party a jackpot Friday night?

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PM Modi clasping Bukhari's hand during their meeting in Delhi last month (Photo sourced from Google)

Srinagar, Apr 4: When Centre notified the domicile law earlier this week, political pundits were quick to write an obituary for the newly formed Apni Party in Jammu and Kashmir.
For analysts and opposition leaders, most of those on social media, it was the beginning of the end of Altaf Bukhari led Apni Party given the noises it had created to strike a chord with people in the post Article 370 abrogation era.
Even Apni Party was rattled by the lopsided domicile law. The party did not mince words in criticizing the law and sought immediate amendments to placate the people.
Come Friday, Bukhari who was already in New Delhi met Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to convince them to amend the order.

Hours later, Centre amended the notification and removed the contentious job clause.
In the order issued late Friday night Ministry of Home Affairs amended section 5A of The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralization and Recruitment Act) replacing “a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level-4 (25500)” with “any post”. Under Section 8 of the Act, Centre also made it mandatory for a person to be a domicile of J&K to get any government job.
To many observers both in New Delhi and Srinagar, it is not the modification of order that matters more but who Altaf Bukhari seems to have convinced, or so he claims. “We never imagined the Union Home Minister Amit Shah can take a step back. Whether by intent or by accident Altaf Bukhari has shown that he can get things done. Even with hard-nosed politicians like Amit Shah”, says a keen political observer.
He considered it a huge victory for Altaf Bukhari and his newly launched political outfit perceptionally.


“Not only will Altaf sell this amendment as his victory but it will also raise his stock not only in the corridors of power but outside of it as well,” the observer said.

A Jammu based political expert, who is aware of how the region felt when the initial changes in Domicile law were made, said that by virtue of the latest amendments in the law, it is expected that government officers including bureaucrats, teachers, union leaders “will take Altaf and his men more seriously”.

“This would also result in his party attracting more followers across J&K especially in those areas where the ultimate aim of getting education is to land up a Government job,” the expert said.

Meanwhile, insiders in Apni Party said Altaf’s latest move will lead to a “trickle affect” “We expect a large increase in our membership as Bukhari sahib is now seen as someone who has got Delhi on his side and will get things done,” said a party member who was one of the two dozen leaders accompanying Bukhari during his meet with PM Narendra Modi last month.

“Many leaders and workers from NC, PDP and Congress will join Apni Party one COVID-19 crisis subsides,” he said with a confident tone.

To many, Altaf is already the next Chief Minister of the newly carved Union Territory of J&K, something that will only help him as pack mentality will begin to set in.

Apni Party top bosses say that the modification of the domicile order is solely because of Altaf. The state BJP unit too seems to have been left behind in the perception battle. “Centre has negated the propaganda of the opposition parties. All the rights of people have been protected and safeguarded.  We thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for respecting the sentiments of the people”, said Kavinder Gupta, former deputy chief minister, and senior BJP leader.

Belatedly, by the time Gupta issued this statement, the wily Altaf had already thanked Amit Shah and Ajit Doval ensuring he did not ruffle any feathers as his partymen went into victory mode.
 “I highly appreciate the home minister and national security advisor for understanding the genuine reservations put forth by the people of J&K vis-à-vis the new order defining domicile law in the matter of employment for Jammu and Kashmir. Their timely intervention made the requisite safeguards possible,” Bukhari said.  
With a seeming chip on their shoulder, the race for credit scoring did not go down well with the Apni Party. “It is painful when people try to take credit for other’s work. We say all parties irrespective of their ideologies should fight for the rights of people. Credits can wait”, Rafi Ahmad Mir, senior Apni Party leader, told The Kashmir Monitor.
Apni Party sees the amendment as the first step towards the restoration of statehood. “It is obliviously a good beginning. There is a long road ahead. We are hopeful this step will pave the way for full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir”, said Mir.