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Lone may join LS poll race

People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone may contest the coming Lok Sabha elections from the Baramulla parliamentary constituency.
Hindustan Times | By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2009 11:49 PM IST

People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone may contest the coming Lok Sabha elections from the Baramulla parliamentary constituency. If he contests, he will become the first separatist leader to join the electoral fray after the onset of militancy in Jammu & Kashmir in the 1990s.

Although Lone’s close associates, who did not wish to be named, told Hindustan Times that the issue was “open for discussion”, Lone has been in touch with other separatist leaders and “rigorously pursuing the matter” with them.

Despite repeated attempts, Lone, who is currently in Delhi, could not be contacted.

Lone took over the leadership of the People’s Conference after his father, Abdul Ghani Lone, was assassinated on May 21, 2002. He is married to Asma, daughter of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based leader of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, Amanullah Khan.

It is well known that he had initially strong reservations about the separatists’ call for boycotting the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. And after the massive turnout in the elections, Lone admitted that supporting the boycott call was a “big mistake”.

Lone’s equations with other separatist leaders — be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani or Mirwaiz Umer Farooq or Yasin Malik — have been erratic. He has openly criticised Geelani at various fora and even blamed him for the assassination of his father.

It is learnt that major political parties — the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and even the Congress — might leave the field open for Lone to help him join the mainstream.

“Talks are going on with some political parties. Mainstream politicians know it fully well that Sajjad is the only separatist who can fight it out on his own — whether he wins or loses is a different matter… Others don’t have the option,” the sources said.

However, Kashmir observers expressed scepticism over the move. “It might just be a ploy on the part of Sajjad to gauge public mood. If the response is negative, he will most probably deny any such move,” said a Kashmir analyst.

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