In politics, they say, perception is everything. Within circles in the Kashmir valley, the perception is fast gaining ground that has decided on its alliance partner for assembly elections in the state, which may be announced by next month.
And the man they have decided to partner with — who could eventually become the next — is Sajjad Gani Lone, son of former separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, who was assassinated in 2002. The affinity between the saffron party and Lone — a former separatist leader who is now a mainstream politician — had been building up for some time, political observers say. In the aftermath of the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti government in June this year, BJP general secretary and the party’s Kashmir incharge Ram Madhav had made it a point to meet Lone during his visit to Kashmir to explore the way ahead in the postMehbooba scenario. Since then, during his frequent visits to the valley, Madhav has met Lone several times, most recently accepting an invitation to dine with him to celebrate the clinching of the Srinagar mayor post by the People’s Conference (PC). Interestingly, even though BJP has decided to tie up with Lone, the chances that the party can form the government in the current scenario, with him at the helm, seem bleak. People’s Conference currently has just two MLAs and even with the support of BJP’s 25 legislators and PDP rebels (if they are convinced to join the alliance), is far from the magic number of 44 to stake a majority in the 87member House. With the sixmonth limit for President’s Rule in the state ending next month and no party seemingly in a position to form the government, the buzz in political circles is that the central government may have polls conducted in Kashmir by March and a formal announcement of the BJPPC alliance may take place before that. If this happens, Lone will be projected as the CM face of the alliance.