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Mehbooba Mufti’s Loss Is Sajad Lone’s Gain: PDP Leaders Jump Ship To Join People’s Conference

Ishfaq-ul-Hassan | India Tomorrow

SRINAGAR—Forget Apni Party, all roads lead to Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference (PC) in Kashmir.

With Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fast imploding, all leaders are finding refuge in the People’s Conference. 

A few months before, PC was one of the founding members of the six-party Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) before it broke ranks and charted its own journey in the murky political world of Jammu and Kashmir.

After PC pulled out of the PAGD over proxy candidates, it has gone into an overdrive to lure leaders mostly from PDP into its fold.

It started with former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig who after quitting PDP joined PC. In fact, Baig, a top-notch Supreme Court lawyer, started his political career with PC which was founded by Sajad Lone’s father Abdul Gani Lone. Senior Lone was assassinated by suspected militants in May 2002. 

Sajad himself drove to Baig’s house and welcomed him to the party that he was part of before he joined PDP.  

PC also doled another favour to Baig when it helped his wife Safina Baig to become chairperson of District Development Council (DDC), Baramulla. Safina, who was president of the PDP women’s wing, left her party to contest DDC polls as an independent. Later with the help of PC, she was elected the chairperson of Baramulla DDC.

On March 30, PC got another shot in its arm when former minister Basharat Bukhari, former legislators Peer Mansoor Hussain and Khursheed Alam joined PC. Bukhari, a former law minister, who had joined National Conference after quitting PDP switched sides again and joined PC. Mansoor Hussain, a former MLA, and advisor to Mehbooba, quit PDP and joined PC. Alam, former trade union leader turned PDP legislator, too jumped the ship and joined PC.

“I welcome Basharat Bukhari, Mansoor Hussain and Khursheed Alam into the PC. They are mass leaders who will contribute to the politics and welfare of J&K. Their political acumen and experience will immensely benefit the party. I am hopeful that these leaders will continue to work for the cause of people,” Sajad said.

If it was not enough, former top bureaucrat Mohammad Ashraf Mir too joined the PC. Sajad’s party off late has become the biggest attraction for the people who leave PDP. 

Earlier, former finance minister Altaf Bukhari had floated Apni Party and brought all leaders from PDP into its fold. It was the biggest beneficiary of the implosion in the PDP. Lately, the tables have turned and PC is trying to extract its pound of flesh. Since March 17, around 10 leaders of different political parties have joined the PC.

Prior to the abrogation of Article 370, Sajad was the ally of BJP. Despite having only two MLAs in the previous Assembly, he was made minister from BJP quota in PDP-led government. When National Conference and Congress joined hands to form the government, Sajad went to the then governor Satya Pal Malik with a letter to form the government with the support of BJP. However, Malik dissolved the House though PDP, NC, and Congress had a two-thirds majority.

After the abrogation of special status, Sajad mend fences with Kashmir-based parties and joined PAGD. However, after the DDC polls, he parted ways again over proxy candidates. In fact, Sajad was the spokesman of PAGD when he quit the alliance to chart out his independent political journey. His elder brother Bilal Gani Lone heads another faction of PC which is a part of the separatist Hurriyat Conference.

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