Gulam Mohiuddin Sofi, a former minister and a confidant of Sajjad's father, is come out in support of Sajjad Lone.
Sofi won an election from Handwara assembly constituency in 2002 and later became a minister in the coalition government of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
But he lost to the National Conference candidate Chowdhary Muhammad Ramzan in Handwara in the December 2008 assembly elections.
"Sajjad Lone has a lot of goodwill and support, especially in Kupwara district," said a political analyst who did not want to be identified by name because of obvious risks.
So why did Sajjad Lone's sister Shabnum, who fought as an independent from Kupwara assembly constituency last year, got defeated by the National Conference? Many feel that this happened because Shabnum never enjoyed the support of the People's Conference.
Though Sajjad Lone is yet to formally announce his decision, mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started looking at him as a serious contender.
The PDP has decided to field a senior leader and former minister, Muhammad Dilawar Mir, from Baramullah.
Mir lost the December elections to National Conference but is still seen as a formidable candidate.
Of the six assembly seats in the Baramullah Lok Sabha constituency, the National Conference won Sopore and Rafiabad while the Congress won the Uri seat. The Gulmarg seat went to former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who had fought as an independent.
"The so-called Sajjad factor is likely to become evident during the Lok Sabha elections. This could be a serious challenge to both the National Conference and PDP," said Qaramat Qayoom, a resident of Baramullah town.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the Baramullah seat was won by Abdul Rashid Shaheen of the National Conference.
Though the National Conference is yet to announce its candidate for Baramullah, insiders suggest at least three names are doing the rounds. They include Shaheen and Sharief-ud-Din Shariq.
"The choice would have to be made keeping in view the fact that both Sajjad Lone and the PDP would pose a challenge to our candidate," said a senior National Conference leader here.
More than who wins and loses the seat, the participation of a senior separatist leader in the poll process will mean that Indian democracy has already won. After that, political observers will keenly watch the extent to which the Sajjad factor hurts the prospects of the major parties.
Saturday, April 11, 2009