BJP downplays Sajjad Lone meeting PM

Speculations rife that saffron party looking for toehold in Kashmir before polls

BJP downplays Sajjad Lone meeting PM

The BJP played down former separatist leader Sajjad Lone’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, but party sources did not rule out a tie-up with his People’s Conference (PC) party after the upcoming Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections.

Lone, who flew down to the national capital to meet with Modi, told reporters: “I came as a Kashmiri to meet the prime minister, and I was pleasantly surprised with his down-to-earth personality and vision about bringing investments into the state.”  
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, did not find anything important in the Lone-Modi interaction. “Every political person from Kashmir meets the prime minister,” he said.

The PC chief, who is contesting from the Handwara constituency of the Kupwara district, chose to deflect queries on whether his half- hour interaction with Modi was a follow-up of his recent meeting with BJP general secretary in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir Ram Madhav.

PC sources said one of the possibilities being explored with the BJP is accommodating Lone in the government if the saffron party came to power in the state. 

Lone has kept his options open to having a truck with any winning party.  The PC has released a list of 18 candidates from constituencies in North Kashmir, where they have a presence.  PC sources claim they have a chance of winning around five seats from North Kashmir.

The BJP is trying to win over leaders and stitch an alliance with smaller parties in its quest for 44 seats—the halfway mark in the 87-member House.

While party leaders are confident of doing well in Jammu (37 seats) and Ladakh (four seats)—regions dominated by Hindus, the real test would be in Muslim-majority Kashmir (46 seats).

The party is engaging leaders like Lone to get a toehold in the Valley. The PC, however, released an official statement on Lone’s meeting with the prime minister, saying that the main agenda of the meeting was an “exchange of ideas on the ways and means of developing the state to its full potential”. 

“A series of issues were discussed. However the focus remained the recent floods in Kashmir and the need for swift and concrete efforts towards relief and rehabilitation in its wake,” said the party in the official statement.

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