Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, is no more a National Conference (NC) forte. After a giant appearance by the PDP in 2014 assembly elections in the capital city, it is now Sajjad Gani Lone who seems to have invaded the NC borough. Sajjad Lone virtually captured the city on Tuesday by taking hold of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Lone’s man Friday Junaid Matto, against all assessments and claims, won the seat of Mayor in a straight contest with the Congress on Tuesday. Of the 70 votes polled in the election for Mayor, Matto secured 40 while his adversary Ghulam Rasool Hajam of the Congress got 26. Four other votes were found invalid. One may argue that it was the absence of NC and PDP that helped Matto’s win. But that is how politics works. Politicians do not always thrive or deflate on their performance.
It is usually the weaknesses or strong points of the opponents that makes one a good or bad politician. When NC and PDP announced boycott of the elections, Sajjad Lone took it as opportunity to make strides into Srinagar. Most of the politicians and political parties, presently operating in Jammu and Kashmir with pro India agenda, are the by-product of the politics of boycott. Many MLAs and ministers (since 1996) would never have thought of ever becoming Panchayat members had there not been the politics of boycott in force. PDP, Engineer Rasheed, Communists and several other so called politicians and MLAs owe their existence exclusively to the absence of other people in the arena. They got an opportunity and exploited it well to their advantage. So did Sajjad Lone. NC and PDP remained away from the election, and Sajjad filled the gap. Though NC and PDP did not field any candidate officially but some independent candidates had the covert support of many of their MLAs. At least 12 corporators are reported to have won with the support of NC and 13 with the support of PDP. Both, NC and PDP top leadership had promised support to the Congress. But Lone worked it out with the coporators at personal level and won them to his favor leaving the NC and PDP leadership aghast. Lone’s entry into Srinagar is significant.
It has ended the monopoly of the National Conference in the city. Barring some individual instances, no candidate or party had ever won against the National Conference in Srinagar. However, in 2014 assembly elections PDP virtually decimated the NC by winning five out of the eight assembly seats in the capital city. But the PDP worst failure in governance had relit NC’s hope of winning back Srinagar. With the emergence of Sajjad Lone on the capital city’s political landscape, the NC’s superiority is face up with a new challenge. Sajjad Lone had tryst with Srinagar earlier also. He had wooed a battery of young educated youth in the city in 2010. Junaid Matto, of course, being one among them. But Mattoo walked out of Sajjad’s circuit to join Omar Abdullah. For his good communication skills, NC appointed him party’s spokesperson. He successfully articulated the NC’s version of politics in public debates. Mattoo deserted NC and joined back Sajjad, when NC announced boycott of Municipal elections. His election as Mayor has given Sajjad Lone a major foothold in Srinagar. It is now worth seeing how he is going to make his political fortunes out of this great opportunity. His entry into Srinagar should be a matter of inconvenience for the National Conference. It has now to grapple with, both, PDP and Sajjad Lone’s Peoples’ Conference to regain its sway over the city. Only time will tell which way the wind blows.