NC Goes Solo: Mian Altaf to Contest Anantnag, Signaling No Alliance with INC in J&K

NC Goes Solo: Mian Altaf to Contest Anantnag, Signaling No Alliance with INC in J&K

Day after National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, his PDP counterpart Mehbooba Mufti attend alliance rally in Delhi, NC vice-president Omar Abdullah announces candidature of five-time former legislator Mian Altaf from south Kashmir Lok Sabha constituency

A day after National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti put up a united show by attending the INDIA bloc’s Loktantra Bachao Rally in Delhi, the NC sprung a surprise and announced the candidature of its former minister and senior leader Mian Altaf Ahmad from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, which goes to the polls on May 7.

“Senior party leader and veteran politician Mian Altaf Ahmed Larvi, 59, has been nominated as the National Conference candidate for the South Kashmir Pir Panjal parliamentary seat. Omar Abdullah, in the presence of Mian Altaf Ahmed, announced his candidature on behalf of party president Farooq Abdullah,” NC spokesman Tanvir Sadiq said in Srinagar.

“There can be no better candidate than him for the constituency. He has never sought votes on the basis of religion or caste and has always tried to take everybody along,” Omar Abdullah was quoted as saying. Mian Altaf, who is the first candidate to be announced for the Lok Sabha elections by the NC, expressed confidence of garnering public support.

Will PDP go solo?

While both Farooq and Omar had been maintaining that the NC would contest all three seats in Kashmir that the party had won in the 2019 general election, leaders of the INDIA bloc and the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have been insisting on the NC leadership to leave the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat for PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti. Mehbooba had represented Anantnag in Parliament after being elected in 2004 and 2014.

After the announcement of Mian Altaf’s candidature, PDP spokesman Mohit Bhan said: “The PDP was looking to contest the elections as a unified force. Unfortunately, there is a situation that the PDP will have to go solo with the support of like-minded people and organisations. The parliamentary affairs committee (PAC) mandated with the responsibility will take a call shortly on the list of candidates and other responsibilities related to the election process.”

Former minister and NC leader Aga Ruhullah, whose name is in the panel for the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, had also been insisting on unity rather than going against the PDP. “We should fight jointly rather than fighting each other,” he said at a rally in Sopore last week.

Political analyst Maqsood Ahmad said: “It depends on the PDP now otherwise the INDIA alliance in Kashmir is already gone. Some PDP leaders are of the opinion that the party should make a sacrifice for the greater cause.”

From politico-religious family

Mian Altaf belongs to politico-religious family of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. A five-time former legislator and minister, he is a prominent Gujjar leader with a following in the Pahari community, too. The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency comprises a substantial Gujjar and Pahari population.

His great grandfather, Mian Abdullah Larvi, was a saint with influence on both Gujjar and Pahari communities. His grandfather, Mian Nazim ud Din, had contested as an independent candidate, while his father, Mian Bashir Ahmad, won the assembly elections five times from Kangan on the Congress ticket.

Altaf is a religious head, who holds the title of Sajjada Nisheen of the shrine at Kangan that is revered by the Gujjars and Paharis across Jammu and Kashmir.

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