Speculations are rife that separatist-turned-mainstream leader Sajad Gani Lone may emerge as the new Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in alliance with the BJP. What is causing more pondering of options in the BJP camp is Lone’s background – from association with top separatists to family ties in different camps – which may negatively affect the prospects of BJP in the upcoming 2019 general elections.
Talking to Newsclick, Former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta of the BJP seemed to open the door for a new government in J&K in alliance with Lone and others.
“Yes, we are thinking over it. Also, there are leaders in PDP and NC, who have a very dark background. But we believe a chance should be given to people to prove themselves. We are not looking into the background as of now. If someone wants to leave their dark background behind and step into mainstream, they should be welcomed.”
Talking about the formation of a new government, he said, “Time will tell. Something will happen very soon.”
Previously, Gupta had confirmed the chances of forming an alliance with Sajjad Lone. “Yes, we are surely going to form the government by next month. Government is on the cards. Chances are that we might form an alliance with Sajjad Lone but never with PDP,” he had told Newsclick. Gyupta’s latest statement about welcoming everybody without looking into their past indicates the feelers being sent all round by BJP.
Meanwhile, BJP senior leader and national general secretary Ram Madhav has held a series of closed-door meetings with Sajjad Gani Lone after BJP withdrew support to PDP on 19 June 2018, bringing down the BJP-PDP allianve govt. led by Mehbooba Mufti down after a fraught three and half years. Currently, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is under Governor’s rule. Over two years are still left for the state assembly to complete its full six-year term.
So, what is stopping BJP from an open alliance with Lone? Commentators believe that the BJP has been apprehensive of forging a new alliance with Lone. And the apprehensions seem to be logical. Lone comes from a family which has its roots in separatist politics with his brother Bilal Gani Lone being a senior separatist leader. Sajjad hogged the headlines when he accused senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani of getting his father and People’s Conference leader Abdul Gani Lone killed in May 2002 in downtown Srinagar. While Sajjad and supporters say that he has been fighting against the dynastic rules of the Muftis and the Abdullah, he himself happens to be the scion of a political family.
Abdul Gani Lone’s killings happened to be the turning point in Sajjad’s life who was made the chairman of People’s Conference while his brother was the executive member of the then united Hurriyat Conference. Thereafter, differences between Sajjad and Hurriyat in general and Geelani, in particular, festered.
Moroever, Sajjad broke ranks with separatists after he was accused of fielding proxy candidates in 2002 Assembly elections by Geelani. However, Bilal (Sajjad’s brother) refused to leave Hurriyat. While Sajjad is dabbling in the mainstream politics, his brother Bilal continues to be an executive member of the Hurriyat, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Sajjad’s wife Asma Khan Lone too finds her roots in militancy in Kashmir. Her father, Amanullah Khan was the founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) which allegedly pioneered armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999. The marriage between the two in November 2000 was much hyped as a new beginning of unity.
“It’ll be a symbolic reunification of the Kashmiri people,” Amanullah Khan had then said.
Amanullah Khan was also the mentor of the then HAJY group, which included Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javaid Ahmad Mir and Yasin Malik. Sajjad Lone was close to this group. Ashfaq, who was the first commander-in-chief of JKLF and Hamid Sheikh were killed in encounters while Yasin Malik and Javaid Mir switched to soft separatism.
From embracing separatism, to dabbling in the mainstream politics, to supporting BJP and calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his “Big Brother”, Sajjad Lone has had a chequered career and untrustworthy in the state’s political circles. Commentators believe that his history leaves Sajjad’s credibility in question. Which is what is worrying the BJP.