Being Devil’s Advocate

Naeem Akhtar
The decision of Sajjad Lone to revert his party to electoral politics has obviously generated some debate. Some cynics read it as the first lines of an epitaph for separatist camp. The argument is that Sajjad’s decision could turn out to be a landmark either way, should he win the Lok Sabha seat from Baramulla or lose it.
If he wins he will have set a trend for others of his tribe to follow and in case of a defeat there won’t be any dearth of buglers seeking to sound the last post for separatist politics in Kashmir. It would in case of his defeat be packaged as the final verdict on Kashmir issue: Look they are rejected by the people will be the refrain. That won’t add to the credibility of either of Hurriyats or the independent operators of Azadi.
Sajjad Lone will, however, be in the eye of storm for quite some time, whatever the result. But any criticism of his decision to fight elections is out of place anyway because it only completes the full circle of his party and family’s journey from mainstream to separatism and back.
And then who in Kashmir has not done it before? Starting from the political grandmaster Sheikh Abdullah, isn’t Sajjad’s decision a facsimile of the National Conference at a much smaller scale? Kukka Parray after all, was not the first renegade.
On a proper analysis Sajjad will find himself in the company of the entire spectrum of politicians with few exceptions. His decision therefore needs to be viewed with greater consideration.
Sajjad Lone is one of the most articulate voices of Kashmir. To that extent his entry into electoral politics should have been considered a gain for the mainstream. But, as he will learn soon, articulation is not the only instrument for success in the cut throat world of our power politics.
In his interview with a local channel Lone provided some interesting clues to his thought process. One was his reason for preferring to fight for Lok Sabha rather than State Assembly. He doesn’t want to be “party to the decisions like putting people in jails” as state governments are required to do. Sajjad is knowledgeable enough to know that most crimes in the state, larger than arrests, can be sourced to central authorities.
He also mentioned Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as an instance. “Mufti Saheb never won an election but has 21 seats in Assembly today,” he said in response to a question about his chances in election. That is a positive signal of optimism from a young, bright politician. One hopes he configures the fact that Mufti started his journey not in 2002 but in 1975 and began his fight together with Sajjad’s father, late Abdul Ghani Lone, against none other than Sheikh Abdullah. Given the impatience of our young leaders who want to achieve instant results wherever they are or else take a U turn, it sounded positive. He seems to be conscious of a long struggle ahead and that is how it should be.

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