Sajjad Lone's meeting with PM raises speculation about poll alliance

A meeting of People's Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today has triggered speculation that the former separatist leader might join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

''A series of issues were discussed. However, the main focus remained the recent floods in Kashmir and the need for swift and concrete efforts towards relief and rehabilitation in its wake,'' Sajjad said after the meeting.

"The prime minister is a great human being and very down to earth. He said that he would take a personal effort in restoring glory of Srinagar. He was very positive about including Srinagar in the 'Smart Cities' concept and assured the centre's intervention to fulfill the need for medical colleges and hospitals in the state," Lone said.

''The PM responded very positively both to the concept of smart city and that of tourist destination by drawing parallels with the region of Kutch (Gujarat) which too had undergone a disastrous earthquake some years back and had now been transformed into a leading tourist hub.''

Sajjad said that he also discussed the enormous scope for tourism in the area such as in the little known and presently inaccessible areas of the Bangus and Lolaab Valleys, LoC tourism and eco-tourism.

Lone said he requested the PM to look into the extension of the railway network being extended to Kupwara. He also requested the PM to look into the possibility of special recruitment for disadvantaged people from the hilly and border regions in the quota for central jobs.

"He was so large hearted that it was tough to say whether I was meeting the prime minister of India or my elder brother," he added.

Lone, who had also recently met BJP leader and former RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav in Srinagar, said the prime minister also underscored the need to seize the recent adversity as an opportunity and work towards the development of Kashmir as one of the most beautiful places in the world and a premiere global tourist destination.

Earlier in the day, Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh said that there is nothing to be surprised about the meeting as all Kashmiris are citizens of India.

The assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in five phases - on 25 November and 2, 9, 14 and 20 December. The counting of votes will be held on 23 December.