Former separatist and son of ex-Hurriyat chairman Sajad Lone on Sunday decided to take full plunge into the state's mainstream politics and, for the first time, fielded 18 candidates from the constituencies of Srinagar, central, south and north Kashmir.
A faction of People's Conference (PC), earlier headed by influential separatist Abdul Ghani Lone who was assassinated in 2002, has become first the Hurriyat constituent to contest assembly polls in such a big manner.
Lone's younger son Sajad Lone, who was more into separatist politics till his father was assassinated by unknown gunmen in Srinagar, has decided to take on the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party from north Kashmir's Handwara constituency, which has been bastion of the slain leader. At present, Handwara is represented by NC stalwart Chowdhary Ramzan.
Sajad's elder brother Bilal Ghani Lone continues to be a part of the moderate Hurriyat-led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Sajad was first Hurriyat leader to defect from the Hurriyat in 2008, hitting a blow to separatist politics, to contest parliamentary polls. He lost the Lok Sabha polls and decided against contesting assembly polls later.
However, the PC on Sunday issued a list of 18 candidates. The party has decided to contest from most north Kashmir seats it used to during the pre-militancy era. It has fielded advocate Salim Mir from Karnah, advocate Bashir Ahmad Dar from Kupwara, Abdul Rahim Wani from Lolab, advocate Mohd Abdullah from Langate, Khursheed Ahmad Khan from Rafiabad, Mohd Ramzan Baba from Sopore, Sheikh Qawamuddin Shilwati from Sonawari, Prof. Ismail Ashna from Bandipora and Asif Akbar Lone from Baramullah. In Langate, the party is pitted against former PC member Engineer Rashid, who contested as an independent last time.
Lone has decided to put up a candidate in hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's hometown of Sopore. Lone and Geelani had been in a war of words in the past. It was on Geelani's assertion that Sajad's PC was expelled from the Hurriyat once.
The party has also decided to fight polls from Srinagar's three seats of Zadibal where Mohammad Ashraf Dar will contest, while Haji Laluddin Mir will fight from Sonwar, traditionally won by Abdullahs, and Muhammad Muzaffar Matta from Batmaloo.
From central Kashmir, it has fielded Mohammad Kamal Malik from Budgam, Dawood Bilal Lodhi, son of a former militant commander, from Beerwah, while in North-East of Srinagar, Mushtaq Ahmad Ahmad Shah will fight from Kangan and Abdul Majeed Dhobi from Ganderbal. The party has decided to field lone candidate Chowdary Anwar from south Kashmir's Pahalgam, a constituency represented by the PDP at present.