Lone ranger Sajjad loses poll but wins base

May 16th, 2009 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, May 16 (IANS) His poll defeat may have come as a disappointment, but for Sajjad Lone, the only Kashmiri separatist leader who broke the secessionist taboo to plunge into the electoral fray, his maiden election experience will help him revive his base in the northern part of the Valley, say analysts.

Lone, who contested from the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat despite militants threats and criticism from his former colleagues, came third.

“Lone’s timing was wrong,” said Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who had once wished that Lone could have been his National Conference candidate.

“Lone should have contested the assembly polls and waited for five years to contest Lok Sabha elections,” Abdullah said.

However, observers believe that though Lone’s decision came a little late, it was right.

In Lone’s loss lies his “political rebirth”, said Ishtiyaq Qadri, a political science teacher.

“He (Lone) has broken the convention, tasted the forbidden fruit and has to consolidate for the next attempt,” the teacher told IANS. “The ‘Lone ranger’ cannot afford to give up the hope.”

Lone, 42, the Peoples Conference chairman, garnered over 65,000 votes from the over 400,000 polled. Sharief Ud Din Shariq of the National Conference defeated Mohammad Dilawar Mir of the Peoples Democratic Party by nearly 65,000 votes. Lone came a close third.

His significant decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls marks a decisive moment in Kashmir’s separatist politics.

“I will represent Kashmir in New Delhi, not New Delhi in Kashmir,” Lone had said when he announced his decision to fight the Lok Sabha elections.

“Sajjad’s loss was not unexpected though. But if we want, we can draw positives from his brave decision of defying strong opposition from separatist leaders and militants,” said Qadri, who has been watching Kashmir politics closely.

“He might have expected a win or at least be a close runner up, which did not happen. But for the state’s crisis-ridden secessionist politics, his decision has forced the Hurriyat Conference to demonstrate its legitimacy through electoral contest.

“Sajjad can legitimately claim that he can speak for a large chunk of the north Kashmir voters - something that other separatists are yet to prove,” Qadri said.

Said Noor-ul-Ain Qurrat, a Kashmir University scholar, “There are a few in the Hurriyat Conference, unlike Lone, who have a genuine mass base that could help to show their representative character.

“They would never be ready to take a high-risk move like Lone did. But sooner than later they would be sidelined to political oblivion. Mirwaiz, Geelani and Yasin Malik will have to consider the ever-shrinking options that they are now left with,” Qurrat said.

Observers believe the Peoples Conference can now revive its lost glory in north Kashmir, which was Lone’s slain father Abdul Gani’s political bastion. The senior Lone was shot dead by suspected militants in 2002 after he favoured a dialogue with New Delhi over the Kashmir issue.

Sources close to Lone said that he was upset with the poll loss, but has not lost hope. “This was a conscious decision and he knew what he was doing,” said a close aide. “The defeat has upset him but he is not totally disappointed.”

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