The Lone loser

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Contesting from north Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency, Lone banked on charisma and loyalists of his father, late Abdul Gani Lone, to sail through the elections. Neither did the charisma work nor did the party prove strong enough.
Lone lost terribly with a margin of 1,37,619 votes. In fact, he was not even in the race as the real contest was between National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party candidates who bagged more than 3.5 lakh votes together.
There was only one consolation for Sajjad Lone. He topped the list of candidates who lost their security deposits. Sajjad’s 65,403 votes fell short of one sixth figure of votes polled (70,597) by a margin of 8,135 votes.
Lone’s contest was one of the keenly watched, with its results deemed to have far reaching ramifications.
Prof Gul Wani of political science department in University of Kashmir says that Lone’s defeat has made it clear that People’s Conference (PC) has lost considerable base in North Kashmir. “Actually PC was a party where political workers were for power. When the party made a shift towards separatist front, many of its workers moved to other parties,” says Prof Wani.
In eighties, when Muzaffar Baig fought election on PC ticket, he managed 90,000 votes in Baramullah alone that too when the total voters numbered around 5 lakh. “Lone‘s 65,000 among the population of one million voters doesn’t make any impact,” says Wani.
Lone’s entry in mainstream politics without a clear cut agenda proved heavy for him. His promise of taking Kashmir to Indian parliament fell flat with the voters. People couldn’t digest Lone’s claim of fighting in a turf where leaders from Sheikh Abdullah to Shamim Ahmad Shamim had failed.
Lone’s another weakness stemmed from the fact that PC had jumped into electoral politics after 22 years, and that too suddenly. His poll symbol – table – was difficult to register in voters minds in a short span of one month. The party’s grass root level structure too was not very organised.
“He heads a party which is in disarray and disoriented to electoral politics,” says Wani.
Then for any separatist to contest elections he or she must have a formidable agenda. “There is a huge element of sacrifice and separatist sentiment among people. It is these leaders who are responsible for it or have contributed to it,” says Prof Wani. “This necessitates the fact that at the time of a cross over, such leaders ought to have a formidable agenda to convince the politically unusual Kashmiri.”
Wani says that people of Kashmir have become politically mature. “People didn’t forgive NC when they backtracked on autonomy promise, so how will they forget separatists, who have led the current fight leading to death of one lakh people,” says Wani.    
PC’s garnering of 65,000 votes has reduced its position to a minor sub-regional party, which can’t exist without an alliance with a state party. Wani says that Lone might need to join regional parties like PDP or NC to survive in this atmosphere.  
“Single handedly, he doesn’t make any impact or prove a competition to anybody. He must make alliance with mainstream political parties like NC and PDP. Maybe with NC as there are some indications from the party,” says Wani.
Experts suggest that Lone needs to channelise all its energy if he wants to move forward on his chosen path. With North Kashmir in mind he ought to re-group and re-orient it.
A PC insider said that the party has found proofs of rigging in the election but are apprehensive of taking up the issue due to further embarrassment. “The difference in votes is huge and there is no public sympathy with us. We may end up as objects of ridicule if we take up this issue,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
Lone’s defeat has message for other separatists – keep away from polls. This is irrespective of the lack of clarity on whether Lone’s defeat was due to separatist anger, popularity of unionist parties or the alleged rigging.
“One thing is clear that from now-onwards there will be no dissent in separatist camp,” says Abdul Samad, a school teacher in Baramulla. “May be we might see Hurriyat unification in the near future,” he further added.
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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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