He has been on the road visiting the voters in remote areas of Baramulla constituency, seeking votes for what he calls 'the Kashmiri voice in Indian parliament' Busy with his whirlwind poll campaign across Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore, Sajad Gani Lone, chairman of People's Conference spoke to rediff.com's Mukhtar Ahmad.
What prompted you to join the electoral process after your staunch opposition to it in the past?
I have not changed my ideology, boycotting elections was part of a strategy. My party felt that this strategy is now outdated and not in tune with ground realities, so it is a change of strategy and not ideology.
Could you elaborate on this proclaimed stand of yours that joining elections is a change of strategy and not ideology?
We need to understand that conflict resolution problem is not confined only to Kashmir. There have been conflicts all around the world. It we go deeper into history, you will see that at some stage in the conflict, the separatists have entered the election fray starting from the Indian freedom movement to Hamas and also in Northern Ireland. There are many such examples, I think we have reached such a stage in Kashmir.
Would you then suggest to the other separatist leaders to join the electoral process?
I will not suggest anything to the other separatist leaders.
Your father believed that elections had been routinely rigged against him. How much faith do you have in the fairness of this democratic process?
There is every likelihood that they could still do it (Rigging). It will be at their own cost.
Mainstream parties like the National Conference and People's Democratic Party have welcomed your decision to contest and yet they are your main opposition in the fray. How much of a chance do you have in matching up to these traditional parties?
I appreciate the statements they made. They need to look after their interests. There is nothing unnatural about it.
Your brother who also heads a faction of the People's Conference still opposes people's participation in the elections, how much would his stand affect your chances of victory?
He has a substantial political clout, let us wait I cannot say anything now.
The NC and PDP are well entrenched by way of resources and ground level cadre in the constituency while you are picking up the threads from where they were left by your father, after he said goodbye to mainstream politics.
I get a great kick out of fighting parties with 21 MLA's on one side and power on the other side.
Can you mobilise men and resources to challenge your rivals?
I am very hopeful that we will win the seat and trust me if we do win, it will be a historical win.
If you don't win these elections, would you go back to the separatist camp?
I will stick to my ideology, and the votes I get will prove my representative character, which is the basic objective of my fighting these polls.
Image: Sajad Lone talks to people while campaigning in Baramullah.
Photograph: Umar Ganie