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Sajjad Lone to contest Lok Sabha elections


Mufti Islah,CNN-IBN
Mar 07, 2009 at 06:26pm IST

Srinagar: The Lok Sabha election in Kashmir may get interesting with separatist leader Sajjad Lone breaking ranks and likely to contest from Baramulla.

In doing so, Lone will be the first top secessionist leader to switch sides and join the mainstream.

During Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections in 2008, Lone had given a poll boycott call but people defied it and came out in large numbers to vote.

"I gave a call for boycott and I can tell you in my areas of influence where we feel PC is strong they did not adhere to it. Do you expect me to say they adhered to it? Do you expect me to congratulate them for boycotting?" Lone had asked while accepting defeat after people defied separatist call to stay away from the Assembly elections in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has welcomed Lone's decision to contest elections.

"It is good that separatists have decided to contest. I am happy. If they do it in my tenure that is a bonus to my government," said Omar Abdullah.

Sources say Lone would be banking on support from the opposition People's Democratic Party to beat the candidate put up by the National Conference-Congress combine.

He enjoys tremendous clout in north Kashmir, especially in the family bastion of Handwara,

The turnabout, according to the sources, stems from the realisation that separatists can do little if they remain outside the representative structure for long and that to contribute for Kashmir, they need to be in a system rather than out of it to bring about a change in the purported rigid stand of New Delhi.

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