Senior journalist, top businessman failed to protect Altaf Bukhari’s seat
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz______
JAMMU, April 6: Businessman-turned-politician Syed Altaf Bukhari, who functioned as Minister of Works in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Cabinet for 10 months, failed to protect his seat in Mehbooba Mufti’s Council of Ministers even as he employed some of his most influential friends and patrons to pacify the PDP President who was reportedly “shocked” to learn that her father’s confidantes had collaborated with some BJP leaders at the Centre to stage a coup and form the government without her.
Highly placed political sources of the ruling coalition disclosed to STATE TIMES on Tuesday that over a dozen of “extremely influential persons” tried their best to force Ms Mufti to change her mind of dropping Bukhari who is known to have maintained liaison with all the enemies of National Conference, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah since 1980s. It was Bukhari and his businessman father Syed Iqbal Bukhari who played a key role in engineering defection in NC in 1984, toppling Farooq Abdullah’s government and installing Ghulam Mohammad Shah as Chief Minister with the support of Congress.
Altaf Bukhari, the pesticide king who has huge stake in export of apple juice concentrate and dry fruit, is widely known to have managed PDP’s finances even before formally joining the party as Joint Secretary in 2008. Children of Bukhari and senior PDP leader Mohammad Dilawar Mir, who has served several times as Minister, are married to each other.
Source’s in the top rungs of the political establishment revealed that the last-ditch attempt to protect Bukhari’s Ministerial berth were assigned to two of his trusted friends rated to be the most influential in Jammu and Kashmir. One of them is a journalist and another runs a chain of hotels in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi in addition to a major business complex in Srinagar. The well-mannered businessman is known for his proximity to top politicians of different political parties and a number of judicial officers having functioned as Judges and Chief Justices of different High Courts.
“Madam put her foot down. She told them both that she would not change her mind under any pressure. She told them that she would not have anybody as Minister in her Cabinet who has backstabbed her or the party. They returned empty-handed. So it was more than clear to Altaf Sahab that he would not be inducted in her Council of Ministers”, said a source.
Bukhari, in a few interviews, has admitted to have been in touch with the BJP leadership in New Delhi but maintained that Ms Mufti was aware of it and his only objective was “to avoid another Assembly election”.