Sajjad Lone – former separatist leader, now a mainstream politician and the leader of People’s Conference (PC), has emerged as BJP’s alliance partner for the upcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Though the chances are bleak for the saffron party to form government again, word is that Sajjad Lone could most likely be BJP’s Chief Minister face in Kashmir.
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According to political observers, BJP has been courting Lone for quite some time. After the fallout of the BJP-PDP state government in June this year, BJP’s Kashmir in-charge Ram Madhav has been meeting Lone whenever he can. Moreover, Lone’s People’s Conference was the only regional party in the Valley who participated in the recent civic polls and won. Other major regional parties had opted to stay away to affirm J&K’s Special Status.
Who is Sajjad Lone?
Sajjad Lone is the son of former renowned separatist (Hurriyat) leader Abdul Gani Lone, who was assassinated in 2002 in downtown Srinagar by militants. After the death of his father, he continued to support the Hurriyat Conference but parted ways when Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a hardline separatist leader accused him of fielding proxy candidates in the 2002 assembly elections. This also led to the split in the separatist group. In 2004, Sajjad Lone floated his own faction of the People’s Conference.
But there is more to Sajjad. In the year 2000, when he was still a struggling businessman trying to create his own niche, shot to instant fame when he married Asma Khan, the daughter of Amanullah Khan, India’s most wanted terrorist and founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). According to Governance Now, the Indian and Pakistani media portrayed this courtship as a “major Indo-Pak social interaction post-Kargil” The Kargil war had severed the two neighbouring nation’s bilateral relationship.
Keeping in mind Kashmir’s vulnerable and very ‘fragile polity’, politicians have deemed it as a ‘hard nut to crack’. As per The Week “when the PDP-BJP government came to power in 2015, the BJP had allotted him one of its ministerial berths, despite opposition from chief minister Mufti Muhammed Sayeed.”
Meanwhile, Sajjad Lone in an interview with NDTV said “I don’t see any difference in aligning with a national party. I was a BJP ally even before the assembly elections of 2014 and it showed no difference in my pockets of strength and I see no difference today.”
In regards to being portrayed as CM, Lone said he can’t say anything about the formation of the government. J&K is under Governor’s Rule since the fallout between the BJP-PDP alliance in June. This is the fourth time in 10 years, for the conflicting state to be in Governor’s Rule.
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