Felt Like I Was Meeting A Brother: Ex-Kashmiri Separatist Sajjad Lone On 'humble' PM Modi

11 November 2014

New Delhi: Former separatist and People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lone was all praises for Indian Prime Minister and told the Indian Express, 'I cannot tell you how humble he is. He was talking as if I was the Prime Minister and not him. It was like two brothers talking to each other.' 'I came as a Kashmiri to meet the Prime Minister and I was pleasantly surprised with his down-to-earth personality, his vision about bringing in investments into the state,' Lone told reporters after a half hour meeting with Modi. While speculation was rife that Modi and Lone discussed the upcoming Kashmir elections, the former separatist leader denied that polls were a topic of discussion. But though Lone denied all election or post-election talk, PTI reported that sources in the know of the developments claimed the meeting discussed a possible scenario post elections and how People's Conference and BJP can work together. The meeting with Modi comes after Lone, whose brother Bilal is an executive member of separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference, had consultations with BJP leaders including Ram Madhav. Lone, said 'I have discussed only Kashmir problems with the Prime Minister. He apprised me of his vision about smart city project for the Valley and I requested additional relief and rehabilitation for the flood-hit people in the state.' He told Indian Express that the PM spoke about how he wanted Kashmir's citizens to live happily and with dignity. 'I talked to him about the problems with flood relief and he said that he (Modi) was personally monitoring it. He said trust me on this - I will restore Kashmir to its glory,' the former separatist leader was quoted as saying by the paper. Lone had however, not brought up the debate on Article 370 of the constitution which the BJP and RSS have long campaigned against. Article 370 grants special status to Kashmir. He added that the PM was excited about urbanisation process and tourism infrastructure in Kashmir. Asked whether there was a discussion on post-poll alliance, he replied, 'let the results come out. Our party is not averse to having an alliance with anyone for we don't believe that party 'A' is good and party 'B' is bad.' Lone has decided to revive the People's Conference founded by his father Abul Gani Lone, who was killed by Pakistan-based militants, and his party is contesting from 12 seats in Kupwara and Handwara. After fielding proxy candidates in 2008 elections, Lone had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections but finished at fifth place. He did not contest this year's Lok Sabha elections but fielded a candidate who failed miserably. BJP, which has launched an ambitious plan for 44-plus seats in Jammu and Kashmir, is also looking for small parties and independent candidates, especially from the Valley, as allies in a bid to achieve the goal. Monday's meeting, according to state political observers, was one such in the series. Lone will be fighting against sitting MLA Chowdhury Mohammed Ramzan in Kupwara constituency. As Firstpost's columnist Sameer Yasir had noted in an earlier piece Lone has worked hard at his political career, 'trudged from village to village, up and down the rutted tracks, and built his party base in Kupwara, his hometown. In the process, he has focused mainly on youth, the fulcrum of his party, who see in Lone the possibility of change.' In fact as Yasir noted, 'Lone might be able to sweep all five seats in Kupwara district... and is perhaps the only separatist-turned-mainstream politician in Kashmir valley, who enjoys such a mass following among the young in north Kashmir.' With the BJP aiming for 44 seats in the state, discussions with Lone make political sense. Lone's strong base in his home town and popularity what BJP will be hoping to bank on after the election results.