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Will history repeat itself in Kangan?
Sunday November 9, 2014 3:06 PM, Sheikh Qayoom, IANS

Veteran Gujjar leader Mian Altaf Ahmad is confident of retaining this constituency in the Kashmir Valley for the National Conference. But the PDP is equally confident that voters are going to throw up a surprise.

This north Kashmir assembly constituency, in Ganderbal district, has traditionally been a stronghold of the National Conference where religious and political loyalties to the Mian family have stood the party in good stead for three generations.

The party has naturally fielded a scion of the Mian family, Mian Altaf Ahmad, for a fourth time from Kangan.

Altaf's father, the highly respected Gujjar leader Mian Bashir Ahmad, represented this seat thrice: 1967, 1972 and 1977.

Altaf's grandfather, Mian Nizamuddin, won from here in 1957 and 1962.

Mian Altaf won the 1987 elections from here as the Congress candidate and was fielded by the National Conference in 1996, 2002 and 2008. He won all three elections for the party in a row.

Naturally, he was the forest minister in the outgoing National Conference-Congress coalition government.

The Mians, therefore, have a formidable political profile which looked unassailable till this year's Lok Sabha election.

That is when Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) Lok Sabha candidate Tariq Hamid Karra led by 3,607 votes over former chief minister Farooq Abdullah from this assembly segment.

Kashmiri and Gujjar Muslim voters form 51 and 49 percent of the electorate respectively. The Gujjars regard the Mians as their religious and political leaders.

Although Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh of the Congress, Nazir Ahmad Raina of the BJP, Muhammad Sultan Lone of the BSP and Mushtaq Ahmad Shah of the Peoples Conference are also in the fray here, the main battle will be between Mian Altaf and Bashir Ahmad Mir of the PDP.

Mir took on Mian Altaf in 2008 also, only to lose by 7,700 votes.

In contrast to history that favours Mian Altaf, Mir is banking mostly on anti-incumbency and the growing estrangement between the young and the National Conference.

The PDP believes the loyalty of the Gujjar voters towards the Mian family is also on the decline.

"It is no longer the same old picture. Everybody understands things better now. People will elect one who they feel will deliver," said Mir.

Main Altaf has engaged himself actively with the people of the constituency and feels his good work won't go unnoticed. I have full faith in the wisdom of the voters in my constituency."

While most mainstream politicians left their homes and constituencies during the years separatist violence plagued the Kashmir Valley, the Mians stayed put in their Wangat village in Kangan.

Mian Altaf escaped a landmine attack miraculously in 1994 but continued to live with his father and the rest of the family in the village.

He meets people freely at his home and office. There has hardly been a complaint about him being inaccessible to people during the years he has been a legislator and minister.

National Conference leaders are sure of retaining this seat despite the reversals in the Lok Sabha elections.

It is a general belief in the valley that if the National Conference loses Kangan to the PDP, it would be difficult for the party to reach the double figure in the 87-member state assembly.

Kangan has 69,408 voters and voting will take place Nov 25.

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