Ghulam Mohammad Bedar, a Kashmir-based politician with humble beginnings, has seen many ups and downs on the national political landscape for almost 4 decades now. Bedar started his political journey around 1983 and joined Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) when it was still DS4 (Dalit-Shoshit-Samaj-Sangharsh Samiti). The decades-long affiliation with the now Kumari Mayawati led party fell apart after Bedar joined the Aravind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party in January 2022 and was subsequently appointed as Central Kashmir Vice-President of the latter party.
Justifying his decision of parting ways with BSP, Bedar says he has been impressed by the governance of Aam Aadmi Party in national capital Delhi and Punjab. Seemingly agitated by the ideological bankruptcy of national parties, Bedar in an interview with Sub-editor Kashmir Glory Asif Iqbal and North Kashmir Bureau Chief for API Murtaza Mushtaq, responded to a host of questions.
Here we reproduce the interview:
i) Where did you start your political career?
Mr. Bedar: I contested my first election under the banner of All India DS-4 (Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti) in 1983 with an aim to raise the voices of socially-downtrodden sections of society. The party which is now known as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was still an unrecognised party at the national level and I sort of contested as an independent candidate. I contested from Langate constituency in 1987 and in 1997 I contested from Handwara.
I actually was a tyre-retreader before joining politics and as such hadn’t any financial might nor did I eyed any when I joined this field. I came in the field with the sole aim to do away with the injustices the downtrodden strata have met with for the last seven decades now.
It was on 19 January 2022 that I reached New Delhi. On a close assessment of things there, I was pretty impressed with the governance of the Aravind Kejriwal led government there.
When I met Arvind Kejriwal, I was evenly impressed by his ideology which prompted me to think of joining the party with an aim to serve my people more thoroughly and efficiently. There remain some issues but I feel these issues are out of my range for now and I am focused to see the development of my people and the charter of AAP mandates one to make efforts to redress the basic issues.
ii) What is it that actually motivated you to join AAP – any particular thing!
Mr. Bedar: When I visited Delhi with an intention to assess the things there that is to say I was yet to join AAP. The thing as you are asking which actually motivated me was the educational standard and medical facilities available to the general masses.
The wards of poor parents who otherwise can’t attend the private schools are being provided education at par with rich strata of the society and regarding the medical facilities the government has set up mohalla clinics with availability of professional doctors and around 120 cost-free tests for the public. Not only this, the government is providing 200 units of power supply at cost. Likewise there are many other things which I felt are people-friendly and help the downtrodden strata of the society.
iii) The AAP as a party supported the decision revocation of Article 370 and 35A. And you being a politician from Kashmir only, how do you see the support extended by Aravind Kejriwal regarding this?
Mr. Bedar: As on date, we can’t say what will happen to the case as it is still sub-judice. Article 370 was made hollow by our political leaders and there wasn’t anything substantial left in it. Rest you said Arvind Ji supported the decision, for that I would say there might have been some compulsions for Arvind Ji.
iv) There have been certain allegations being made over the mismanagement of the government setup by AAP in New Delhi, especially by Manish Sisodia. Have the allegations any bearing on the party setup?
Mr. Bedar: The issue of Manish Sisodia is purely a politically motivated move. Some vested interests tried to get political mileage out of it, but it all turned out hollow. Practically what we see, the ruling party is trying to subdue those (parties) working on the ground. The issue of Manish Sisodia is just a political gimmick and an attempt to deride and defame the (AAP) party – but it won’t in any way affect the party. Before arresting Sisodia Ji, the same quarters tried to rake up various other issues to defame the party and even tried to buy the loyalty of many but all such attempts fell flat as the party men turned out to be men with steel nerves. Frustrated by the defeat, these vested interests resorted to the new deception – these are all politically motivated things which we see as unconstitutional.
v) What would be the immediate issues which are likely to feature in the AAP’s manifesto once the elections schedule is made public?
Mr. Bedar: Let authorities at the helm come clear about the schedule, we’ll accordingly draft and release a manifesto – a manifesto that will aim for the larger benefit of the public.
vi) Would AAP include restoration of Statehood in its manifesto?
Mr. Bedar: I would say, we will take every issue into consideration that has somehow gone against the basics of the constitution for a while now. As few things are sub-judice, we await the decision of the highest court and will draft a strategy accordingly.
vii) If the election dates are announced any time soon, from which constituency would you like to contest?
Mr. Bedar: As of now I am more focused on creating awareness among the masses about my party and as such I have not decided to contest the elections. Take the example of Punjab, we at first won some 14 seats and when people understood us, we prevailed over our rivals to form the government. The people know for themselves, how successive regimes have exploited us for their own benefits that too coupled with time to time regressive steps. I appeal to the people to take the things into consideration and give us a chance to serve them.
viii) There has been very little reaction by your party on the anti-encroachment drive. Why is party leadership choosing silence over words pertaining to such intimate issues?
Mr. Bedar: AAP recently held a hunger strike on the issue and sought answers from the authorities on the issue directly affecting the general masses. Such things are a ploy to distort the people from core issues.
ix) Why did you not join any regional party to see resolution of the issues you have over the time seen your people grappled with?
Mr. Bedar: 40 years is not a small time – I have been in politics for almost 40 years by now. I’ll share with you someday as to why I joined AAP and not any of the regional parties.
x) Anything you would like to say purely on your behalf?
Mr. Bedar: We have been suppressed for the last 7 decades and met with a step-motherly approach especially towards our youth. The people need to understand it all and give AAP a chance to serve them.