Sajjad Lone May Be A Face In LS Polls

8 March 2009
Kashmir Times

Srinagar: The forth coming Parliament elections in valley may get interesting with separatist leader and Peoples Conference (PC) chairman Sajjad Lone is likely to contest from North Kashmir's Baramulla seat. Sajjad, son of the slain senior Harriyat Conference leader Abdul Gani Lone will be the first top separatist leader to switch sides and join the mainstream. During the recently concluded state Assembly elections, Lone had also given a poll boycott call, however, people defied the call and came out in large numbers to vote. The people termed it the vote for 'Sadak, Bijli, and Pani' and people's opinion was vindicated by the then National Conference president and chief minister Omar Abdullah. 'People must not link vote with Kashmir issue,' Omar had told an election rally in his home constituency in Ganderbal. Sajjad, who is presently in Pakistan for the participation in Pugwash Conference could not be contacted. However, he was quoted by a TV channel as saying 'I gave a call for boycott and I can tell you in my areas of influence where we feel PC is strong they did not adhere to it. Do you expect me to say they adhered to it? Do you expect me to congratulate them for boycotting?' Lone had asked while accepting defeat after people defied separatist call to stay away from the Assembly elections in Kashmir. Sajjad, hailing from the Kupwara district's Handwara tehsil has chances to go through as PC is stated to be popular party in Kupwara and some parts of Baramulla. If the sources in PC are to be believed, Lone would be banking on support from the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) to beat the candidate put up by the National Conference-Congress combine. 'Our party enjoys tremendous clout in north Kashmir, especially in the family bastion of Handwara,' one of the close associates of Lone said. Here it needs to be mentioned that chief minister while at the Tulip garden two days ago asked the separatists to contest the elections. He has welcomed Lone's decision to contest elections. 'It is good that separatists have decided to contest. I am happy. If they do it in my tenure that is a bonus for my government,' said Omar Abdullah.