Fight for Kingdom

With 18 years of standing and a long list of developmental projects by his side NC’s strongman Sagar likes to considers Khanyar a cake walk. But will an urge for change and his opponent’s innovative campaign play spoilsport, only time will tell. Syed Asma reports 

A view of Dastgeer Sahib Shrine in Khanyar. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
A view of Dastgeer Sahib Shrine in Khanyar.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Cze ann toungur, bi aane gyeent, wali ath aalibaani karaw pyeent pyeent, (You bring spade, I will get pickaxe, let’s break this plough to pieces) roars a group of people through the lanes and by-lanes of Khanyar. The Khanyar assembly constituency has over the years been a strong hold of National Conference. They won the constituency eight times of the total ten assembly elections since 1957 and Ali Mohammed Sagar, the sitting MLA, has won thrice from the same constituency. It includes Rainawari, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Khawaja Bazar and Nowpora.

NC lost only twice, once in 1967 when Ghulam Ahmad of Indian National Congress won and later in 1972 elections to Saif-ud-Din Qari of Jamaat-i-Islami.

“Making Sagar lose is like throwing a king out,” says an NC loyalist, Altaf Ahmed, and a shopkeeper in the area, “it takes some time to kill a king.”

The voice of PDP men roars again from somewhere, Daz ha walai Sagaro az ha waichi wair followed by clapping and increasing tempo of the song. The PDP party men try all sorts of creativity to make the song interesting and lure the public to join them, but none joins.

Altaf mocks at them, though at a lower pitch, enn doz ha waliw! He adds, “But the slogan suits Sagar. It has been 18 years of his rule. Ah!”

“We too would have taunted Khursheed Alam [PDP’s candidates] but he has no political career and about his role in trade union we all know!” Altaf says with a smirk.

Probably, the last elections would have been a cake walk for Ali Mohammed Sagar but this time it seems the PDP’s candidate, Khursheed Alam, would be giving him a tough fight.

Alam, born in Anzimar Khanyar and presently residing in the civil lines in Srinagar believes the people of Khanyar will help him wipe-out NC from the area. He unlike Sagar has opened up an office in Khanyar and the locals say Alam is in constant touch with them after the floods hit.

“See both Alam and Sagar are moneyed people but the difference is Alam has started spending on us. So, obviously Alam would attract us more,” says Iqbal Ahmed, a youth who is a latest Khursheed Alam follower.

The former trade union leader, Alam believes that the area which has preferred to go for election boycott for all these year would want change and will come out and vote this time.

Sagar has won the seat thrice in 1996, 2002 and in 2008 amidst low poll turn-out.

In 2008, of 48,900 total electors, 6313 had voted in favour of NC. The runner up, a PDP man, Showkat Ahmad Hafiz bagged 806 votes.

Ali-Sagar-and-Khursheed-AlamIn 2002, of the 72,495 voters, Sagar got 2868 and the runner up Mushtaq Ahmed representing Indian National Congress got 127 votes.

Similarly, in 1996 elections, there was 12.79 per cent voter turnout in the constituency. Sagar bagged 87.52 per cent votes while as Janta Dal’s Nazir Ahmad only had 8 per cent votes in his kitty.

Alam intends to break the norm and dreams of defeating Sagar this time. But a confident Sagar once in an interview told Kashmir Life that he has had many challengers but his work in the constituency will never allow him to fail.

Managing the constituency from 18 long years he has reared many loyalists who go on and on to talk about the developments in Khanyar constituency. Among other things that they count on their fingers are two hospitals: one near Khanyar police station and other at Rainawari, a rope-way to the Makhdoom sahib shrine, macadamized roads, lanes as well as the by-lanes of the area.

“There cannot be a case of not developing the constituency against Sagar at least. Yes, he can be blamed for not reaching out to the people during recent floods,” says Jibran, an auto driver living in Khanyar.

Ignoring the amount of the work done by Sagar in Khanyar, Alam criticizes him on the issue of development. “Instead of shopping complex Sagar should have built maternity or a children’s hospital in Rainawari,” accuses Alam.

Alam dreams of building a hospital on a piece of land which was spared after Sagar renovated the hospital.

Everyone has a cost, says Muezz Ali and these political parties know where to use their money to get their benefit. Ali, a university student says he has been monitoring the political activities of the both the leaders.

“The voter turn-out would not probably increase but depends on a few patches in the Khanyar constituency who always vote. Whom will they vote today?” asks Ali.

It is said that NC over the years had been rearing and nurturing a small community near Kalai Andar, Nowhatta.

“Sagar Sahib is their God-father and they do all the wrong doing under his nose and even the police can’t touch them,” says Zareef Ahmed Zareef, a poet and a resident of the area.

NC has a stronghold on this area and has been rearing them since decades. So, they will help Sagar to have an edge if they do not ditch him.

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