Even in the third list of BJP candidates for the Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls - declared in New Delhi on Tuesday - there was no mention of fielding a candidate against People's Conference (PC) leader and former separatist Sajjad Lone in north Kashmir's Handwara segment.
Lone recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has been praising him, though both the BJP and Lone have left alliance possibilities subject to the post-poll arithmetic. HT was the first to report about the likelihood of the BJP not contesting against Lone.
Now, as November 14 is the last date for filing nominations for Handwara and other segments going to polls on December 2 in the second of five phases for the state's 87-seat assembly, the non-fielding of a candidate against Lone all but seals a tactical understanding with the BJP.
The BJP, which has fielded 72 candidates so far, has put up 20 Muslims candidates, its highest ever in the state. At present, the saffron party has only 11 seats in the state assembly but, buoyed by its historic Lok Sabha victory, it is aiming to cross the 44 mark of majority by allying with smaller groups and independent candidates.
The BJP's move not to contest in Handwara would boost the prospectus of Lone, who is pitted against sitting National Conference MLA Chowdhary Ramzan and PDP's Mohiuddin Sofi, the latter a former member of the People's Conference. Sofi is bound to split PC's vote bank though.
However, in what are simply being termed "tactical reasons", the BJP has decided to contest from other constituencies where PC has significant votes, such as Kupwara, Rafiabad and Langate.
Lone had on Tuesday denied any pre-poll alliance saying that the decision about any post-poll alliance will be taken on the basis of post-poll arithmetic. The BJP too had played down the alliance. "We are contesting the polls on our won. The talk of alliance will be only after the polls," BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav had said in Srinagar.