KANGAN: Even if he were to join BJP, Mian Altaf could still count on the vote of Mohammad Hussain Khitri.
Khitri, 65, walked about two kilometres from his home to the polling in Hari Ganwan, a Gujjar-dominated cluster of hamlets in Kangan.
He had been waiting for about three hours for his turn. Unlike voters in most parts of the constituency, Khitri, like other Gujjars, does not shy away from openly talking about his favourite candidate.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me or others whether he (Altaf) did anything or not, I will vote for him,” says Khitri, who is voting for the sixth time in his life.
Gujjar voters are driven by loyalty to Mian family, which is the caretaker of highly venerated Baba Nagri sufi shrine. The loyalty is more for the religious background of the clan than its political affiliations.
First, it was Altaf’s grandfather Mian Nizamuddin who won the seat in 1957 and 1962. Then his father, Mian Bashir Ahmad won the same seat in 1976, 1972 and 1977.
Altaf first fought the elections in 1987 on Congress ticket. He has been winning it since 1996 on National Conference ticket.
“Tomorrow if Mian sahib joins Congress or BJP or any other party we will still vote for him because we vote for Mian Sahab (Altaf’s father),” Khitri said.
While other Muslims in the valley have vacillated between voting and boycott, Gujjars have been voting consistently—for a family. They stayed away from Lok Sabha polls because “their leader wasn’t in the contest”.