Mian Altaf’s family never lost in 10 Assembly elections

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz. Updated: 4/2/2024 12:37:54 AM Front Page

Srinagar: National Conference (NC) has finally broken the ice and thrown the hat of senior leader Mian Altaf Ahmad in the ring of the South Kashmir Lok Sabha constituency.
Sixty-six year old scion of the influential spiritual and political family of Baba Nagri, Altaf has won as many as five Assembly elections with impressive margins from his home constituency of Kangan in Kashmir.
In the entire NC, he was seen as the only potential candidate who could win a considerable chuck of the Gujjar and Bakerwal vote spread in both parts of the constituency—in the seven Assembly segments of Rajouri and Poonch in the Pir Panjal valley and at least four of the 11 segments in Anantnag and Kulgam districts in Kashmir. He was also seen as the only politician who could appeal to all regiments of the Gujjars, Paharis and the Kashmiris.
The BJP government at the Centre has played a master stroke in this constituency recently by granting the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Paharis and giving them a separate reservation of 10% in the government jobs and scholarships in addition to 10% reservations already granted to the Gujjars. In the second big largesse, the Narendra Modi government has for the first time reserved 9 seats for the STs in the 90-member Legislative Assembly of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory.
These unprecedented measures have ensured a major chunk of the Pahari ethnic vote in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu for the BJP. So, the NC was in need of a candidate who could not only grab a lion’s share of the Gujjar vote but also cut away a section of the Pahari and the Kashmiri vote from the potential rivals of the BJP in Jammu and the PDP in Kashmir.
Justice (retired) Hasnain Masoodi who was returned on the NC ticket in the low turnout triangular contest from South Kashmir in 2019 was not considered the BJP’s answer in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In 2019, he contested his maiden election. This time, 5 Assembly segments of South Kashmir, including Masoodi’s home segment of Pampore, have been cut away from South Kashmir and added to the Central Kashmir constituency.
On the other hand, seven Gujjar and Pahari-dominated segments of Rajouri and Poonch have been clubbed with South Kashmir. The division of vote and other dynamics will be correctly determined only when the other parties—BJP, PDP, Congress and Apni Party—announce their candidates and decide to suppose any party in the electoral arena.
After Mian Altaf’s nomination, there are now speculations that the BJP could either field a serving IAS officer of Poonch or support a different potential Gujjar candidate who has served as MLA and Minister. Sources insist that a section of the party wanted the J&K head Ravinder Raina to contest. If the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti decides to contest, it will be a neck-and-neck triangular fight—much depending on who could get votes in both the regions.
Mian Altaf comes from a rich political background as his family of the spiritual reverence among Gujjars has a substantial base across the Rajouri-Poonch belt in addition to a stronghold in Kangan, Ganderbal, in Central Kashmir.
Even as Mian Altaf is now contesting his first election for Lok Sabha, three generations of his dynasty have contested and won as many as 10 Assembly elections—9 in Kangan (Kashmir) and one in Darhal (Rajouri). It has never been defeated in any election.
Altaf’s grandfather Mian Nizamuddin represented Kangan as a Congress MLA from 1962 to 1967. His successor-son Mian Bashir Ahmad Larvi won the Assembly election as a Congress candidate from Kangan in 1967 and 1972. After Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s return to the mainstream, Mian Bashir joined the NC and won the Assembly election in Kangan in 1977.
Later, in 1983, Mian Bashir left Kangan and contested as the Congress candidate from Darhal (Rajouri). It was the only election in which someone different from the Mian family—Sheikh Abdul Jabbar of Lar (NC)—won in Kangan.
Mian Bashir polled the lion’s share of the 79.66% votes in 1972 and 87.07% in 1977. His nearest rivals, Abdul Ahad Bhat of Jamaat-e-Islami (1972) and Qazi Mohammad Afzal of Janata Party (1977) forfeited their security deposits.
Mian Altaf was inducted into the Assembly elections as a Congress in Kangan for the first time in 1987. He polled 14,644 votes (46.04%) against Ghulam Mohammad War of Muslim United Front who polled 9,952 votes (31.29%). Altaf was inducted as Minister of State in Farooq Abdullah’s NC-Congress government.
In 1996, Mian Altaf contested the Assembly election on the NC ticket. He polled a massive 21,553 votes (90.23%) against Qazi Mohammad Afzal of Congress who got only 954 votes (3.99%) and forfeited his security deposit. He was inducted as a Cabinet Minister in Farooq Abdullah’s NC Government.
In 2002, NC repeated Mian Altaf for his hat-trick from Kangan. Even as it was the NC’s worst time, Altaf was returned with an impressive margin. He polled 16,987 votes (64.71%) against PDP’s Ghulam Mohammad Dar who got 5,948 votes (22.66%).
In 2008, Altaf won his 4th successive Assembly election on NC’s ticket from Kangan. He polled 19,210 votes (54.98%) against Bashir Ahmad Mir of PDP who got 11,495 votes (32.90%). Altaf was for the third term inducted in the NC government, this time in Omar Abdullah’s cabinet.
Mian Altaf contested and won his 5th consecutive election as NC candidate from Kangan in 2014. This is the only time that his nearest rival came very close to his tally. While Altaf polled 25,812 votes (47.12%), PDP’s Bashir Ahmad Mir bagged 24,380 votes (44.50%).
Altaf’s brother-in-law Abdul Gani Kohli contested the Assembly election of 2014 on the BJP ticket from Kalakote Rajouri. He was returned and got the distinction of becoming the BJP’s first Muslim MLA and Minister in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mian Altaf is also closely related to the family of the veteran Gujjar leaders Chowdhary Mohammad Hussain (Rajouri) and Haji Buland Khan (Reasi). A number of men from these families, including Chowdhary Hussain, Chowdhary Zulfikar, Haji Buland Khan and Aijaz Ahmad Khan became MLAs and Ministers for Congress and PDP.

Updated On 4/2/2024 3:03:45 AM

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