People's Conference Chairman Sajjad Lone, an ally of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, has defended the governor's controversial remarks who had named the next Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation even before the polls were conducted in the city.
Mr Lone is the only regional party leader in the Valley who is participating in the civic body polls after major regional parties decided to stay away. The regional parties want the centre to take a firm stand on safeguarding Jammu and Kashmir's Special Status which has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Lone said Governor Satya Pal Malik was only reflecting who could be the Mayoral contender for Srinagar city. "Governor is human and an honest person. He reflected what was emanating from the reports at an official and unofficial level - that he could be one of the contenders for the post of Mayor. Junaid's name cropped up and we are supporting him," said Mr Lone.
He also said the low polling percentage has been a challenge for last three decades.
The last two phases of polling across 10 districts of the Valley have recorded an abysmal turnout of 8 and 3 per cent. The polling for the third phase is underway today. The main contest is between the BJP and the Congress but 60 per cent of municipal wards in the Valley remain uncontested because of the boycott.
Mr Lone, who was projected as the chief ministerial candidate after the fall of PDP- BJP government in June, says his alliance with the BJP is not damaging his electoral prospects.
"I don't see any difference in aligning with a national party. I was a BJP ally even before assembly elections of 2014 and it showed no difference in my pockets of strength and I see no difference today," he said.
Mr Lone said the urban local bodies' election is purely for civic facilities and the boycott of these polls will only hurt the interests of the poor.
"I wish people of Srinagar understand what they lose out by staying at home and not voting," he said.
The former minister in BJP-PDP government said that he has fielded 35 to 40 candidates in Srinagar city and is confident that with the help of other groups the mayor will be elected from his party.
The BJP ally said that boycott and low participation is making the election an exercise of selection.
"If you don't have a good participation it's just a selection and not election. Let people come out and vote" he said.
He said National Conference's Farooq Abdullah got just 1.94 per cent votes in Srinagar city during Parliament by-elections in 2017.
On reports of him becoming chief minister with the support of the BJP, the People's Conference leader said they are preparing for parliament elections. "I can't talk about the formation of government," he said.