Kupwara (J-K), Dec 2: Separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajjad Gani Lone drew flak from his political opponents for meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir but his supporters are unabashed about it, saying the move reflected a new line of thinking.
"Sajjad has a new thinking. There is a new excitement among the people here. We are with Sajjad and will vote for him and make him a winner," Mushtaq Ahmad (36), a voter in Handwara assembly segment -- where Lone is a candidate, said. Idrees Ahmad (28) said a new vigour was infused among the people especially supporters of Peoples Conference after he met the Prime Minister.
Habibullah Lone, a first time voter, said "We want development of our area and the state. We want our children future to be secured. For that we want to have a good relation with any party which is in power at the Centre, so what is the harm in meeting the PM," he said.
In the neighbouring Langate constituency, these views were echoed by a group of youth even though Sajjad is not a candidate from the constituency. Peoples Conference has fielded Advocate Mohammad Abdullah Mir from Langate and takes on incumbent MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid.
"We support Sajjad and we vote for his candidate he fielded from here. He is our leader and our only hope," Tariq Ahmad Pandit (22) said. Pandit said Lone talked about development of Kupwara with Modi and especially demanded a Central university among other infrastructure facilities for the district and that is why there was a huge support for his candidate. On November 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Sajad Lone.
Lone will be fighting against sitting NC MLA Chowdhury Mohammed Ramzan from Handwara assembly segment. On Lone's meeting with the Prime Minister, Chowdhury said Lone was synonymous with "political opportunity" and wondered where he was during the September deluge in the state.
Apparently hinting at BJP for holding parleys with Lone, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also said that some forces do not have any programmes and policies and can shake hand with "anyone for power".
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had also accused Lone of ganging up with the BJP, which he alleged wants to end the special status of the state, a charge which Lone had termed as "shameless".
"Suddenly one of the leaders (Sajjad Lone) sees a brother in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. The brother who wants to remove Article 370, the flag and the constitution of this state," Omar had said.