Support in Kangan and Budgam assembly segments played an important role in National Conference (NC) patron Farooq Abdullah’s victory by over 10,000 votes in the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll despite just 7.14 per cent turnout. Abdullah bagged 10,024 out of 15,199 votes polled in Gujjar-dominated Kangan. His rival, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Nazir Khan, managed just 4,215 votes.
Kangan is NC legislator and Gujjar leader Main Altaf’s stronghold. He camped in his constituency and played a key part in rallying his supporters in Kangan, where 20 per cent voters turned out to vote. “People of my area voted because of my work and goodwill. I remained stationed there and motivated them to vote for NC,’’ Altaf said. He said that it was very difficult to convince voters due to PDP-BJP combine’s wrong policies.
In Kangan’s Wangat, most of 583 villagers who voted said that they did so for Abdullah. “We voted as our leader Main Altaf has been helpful to us whenever we needed him,’’ said Idrees Ahmad Bajad, a voter. “We can never forget the developmental works that Main Altaf initiated for us.’’
In neighboring Warwan village, 425 out of 600 voters voted. “We have only known Main Altaf and his father, Main Bashir. We will always keep voting for them or on their advice. They (the Main family) came to our rescue whenever we needed them and we respect them as they are caretakers of a famous shrine,’’ Shakir-ud-din, a labourer said. Another villager, Mohammad Afzal, said that people in Kangan and Ganderbal have respect for Altaf’s family as they are caretakers of the shrine. “We cannot go against them. They told us to vote for NC; so we did.’’
PDP district president Bashir Ahmad Mir, who lost the last assembly elections to Altaf by less than 800 votes, said that Kangan has around 16,000 Gujjar voters. He added that 10,000 people voted on April 9 and 95 per cent of them did so for NC. “Also, Gujjars live in those areas where there is no stone pelting while my voters were scared to come out to vote.”
In Shia-dominated Budgam, Abdullah got 8,697 while Khan managed just 2,383 votes. Two powerful Shia leaders, NC legislator Agha Ruhallah and his uncle and MLC, Agha Mehmood, hold sway in the area.