Are Kashmir’s Political Parties Left With No Interest in Public and Politics?
Apni Party Stands Out
Political leaders are for the people, and are made by the people. So are their political offices. A political office is not someone’s resting place. It is a place where political leaders are supposed to interact with the general public and address their grievances. It is also pointless to claim that since Jammu and Kashmir does not have a political government in place, political figures have no role currently. The duty of a political leader is not to beg for votes at the time of election, but to earn these votes till the time of the election. Their job is to engage with the people. As goes the famous Hollywood line – The Show Must Go On.
A society cannot grow if its political offices are desolated and its leaders choose to rest at their plush houses, expressing condolence and sympathy on social media and thinking that their job is done. When the political leaders have no interest in the public, then how can they expect that people will have interest in them? This is a two-way lane. The offices of political parties in Srinagar are by and large deserted these days. The number of workers visiting these offices has drastically declined over the last two years. The leaders of these political parties seldom visit their party offices. One catches their glimpse only when a rare party meeting of senior leaders is convened at the respective party headquarters. The only exception is the Apni Party Office at Church Lane, where workers and leaders keep coming and going throughout the day.
NC OFFICE WEARS A FORLORN LOOK
The National Conference office at the Nawa-i-Subh Complex bears a deserted look. A few office bearers and a thin staff trudge into the place now and then. The NC leadership comprising Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah hardly visit the party headquarters. Things were different in January this year. There was some life in the party headquarters of Kashmir’s regional political parties. Their leadership was upbeat that elections would be held anytime during the year. The movement continued for a few weeks. Now, the enthusiasm seems to have vanished as the Election Commission of India is silent on the issue of elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
For decades, the NC party headquarters was always marked by a flurry of activity. It would remain flooded with the movement and hectic parleys of NC leaders and workers. Now, the party office wears an almost forlorn look. Visit the NC office, and you shall find some police vehicles on the premises, and some policemen moving about. Occasionally, some workers from Srinagar city visit the office to mark their presence. Strangely, even at the residences of party supremos Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah at Gupkar Road, one does not see many visitors waiting outside.
ALL QUIET AT PC AND PDP OFFICES
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti’s fortified Fairview residence at Gupkar Road remains similarly deserted. A couple of police and private vehicles can be seen on the main entrance of Mehbooba’s house. It seems that the gate remains closed throughout the day. The PDP Office at Municipal Park has no visitors at all. The office remains lifeless. Hardly any worker is seen visiting the office. The only faces one sees at the PDP office are the employees here. No political leader of PDP marks his presence at the office. A man standing outside the PDP office told KASHMIR CENTRAL that the only Hamid Kohsheen, a middle-rung PDP leader from Rajbagh visits the party office occasionally, flanked by a couple of friends. No other party leader is seen visiting the PDP office. The situation at the Congress office on MA Road is no different. A shopkeeper near the party office laughingly remarked that only some old and tired Congressmen visit the party office occasionally to kill time. There is no activity at the Congress office, the shopkeepers near the party office stated.
The party headquarters of the People’s Conference is at the residence of PC supremo Sajad Lone. Here too, there is no movement of other party leaders or political workers.
APNI PARTY THE HAPPY EXCEPTION
The Apni Party Office at Church Lane is the happy exception to the desolation that marks the offices of other political parties in Kashmir. The office is abuzz daily with the to and fro of leaders and workers of Apni Party.
Party President Sayed Altaf Bukhari makes it a point to attend the office when he is in Srinagar. Usually by 10 am, he is ready to go to the party office. Other leaders of his party too visit the office frequently. This is the place that actually bears the look of a political party headquarters. There is always one or the other activity happening here. Many commoners visit his office on a regular basis to get their issues resolved. Across Kashmir, the leadership of all political parties barring Apni Party is looking confused. For them, the situation seems to be like choosing between the devil and the deep sea. To make matters worse, workers of these parties seem disenchanted with their leadership. This is more pronounced after the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution in August 2019. There are strong currents of disaffection because the party leadership has no answers to the questions posed to them by their respective cadres.
The General Secretary of the Congress in J&K, Surinder Singh Channi recently told KASHMIR CENTRAL, “Article 370 proved to be more harmful to Jammu than to Kashmir. The coming election will totally depend on people – whether abrogation of Article 370 has benefitted them or harmed them”. No doubt that the election will depend on the people, as it always has been. In this age-old equation, the political parties are missing. The more they interact with people and resolve their issues, the more their acceptability and popularity. Otherwise, how will the people trust them with their votes? Why should they vote for someone who has no concern for them and is not bothered?