People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone belongs to new generation of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. Lone was confident that although he had only two seats in the Assembly, he could have won over disgruntled elements from the Peoples Democratic Party to achieve his ambition and become chief minister. This, he believed, would have come his way: apart from of course enjoying the support of the BJP MLAs.
Fearing this would result in horse-trading, Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik put paid to Lone's ambitions and dissolved the Assembly. Malik claimed he took such a step because he did not want to go down in history as 'unscrupulous'. Lone, in an interview, talks about his struggles in politics, taking on the 'dynasties' in the Valley and Governor Malik.
Why did Satya Pal Malik not entertain your fax?
I don’t know. The governor should answer that question. But he's presenting a new version every day. Today, he's come up with yet another version. To set the record straight, on that particular day, ( 21 November), I spoke to him on the phone and conveyed I wanted to stake a claim to form the government. He told me to send a fax. I tried, but did not succeed. I called his secretary, who said he was putting me through, but the governor did not take my call. This went on for three hours. We could not get through to any of the Raj Bhawan numbers. Finally, I sent my letter on WhatsApp. An hour-and-a-half later, Mehbooba Mufti’s letter staking a claim to form the government popped up on Twitter. Someone must have passed on the information that we were staking a claim, which is why she put up her letter on Twitter.
But you have only two members in the Assembly. How would you have put together the numbers?
I was going to stake a claim within the ambit of the Constitution. I would not do something outside its ambit. If I didn't have the numbers, I would not have been allowed to form the government. After all, an anti-defection law is in place. I'm not mad. A huge group within PDP approached me. They wanted to join me, I did not go to them.
Was veteran PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig among them ? He has referred to you as his son...
He was not involved, but there were many others. When these three parties — National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress — were coming together to stake a claim, did they consult their legislators? They did not. The days of herding your legislators are in the past. There is decision-making at the macro levels and decision-making at the micro level. But legislators are not being taken into confidence at the micro level. Unfortunately, these parties did not involve them at the micro level and this led many MLAs to gravitate towards me.
I had the support of the BJP and would have raised required numbers. How can this be called horse-trading ? The governor should be more careful about what he is saying. He (governor) should know when to keep his mouth shut. But the governor is going against me hammer and tongs. Does the governor want to get me finished? There are violent elements across the Valley and we have to be careful about what we say. The misrepresentation of facts is also going on in the media and this vilification campaign needs to end.
Kashmir has a long history of unfortunate incidents. Everyone knows what happened at the polls in 1987. Elections have been blatantly rigged. This is nothing new: be it the National Conference or the Congress. Look how these parties rigged the 1987 elections. As a result, more than 1 lakh people have died in the Valley. The 2002 elections, when the PDP managed to get 15 MLAs, were no better. And 1996, when Farooq Abdullah came to power, was no election, but a selection done with the connivance of the Centre. This time around, those belonging to dynastic politics ganged up against me. Both dynasties, Mufti and Abdullah, were in cahoots to keep me out. Sometimes, I get the impression that the governor is acting at the behest of these parties. I regret to say that he (governor) is the setting sun whereas my career in politics is on the ascendancy.
But aren't you a product of dynastic politics? Your father, Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, founded a political party in Kashmir...
I am not part of any dynasty. I have been struggling for the past sixteen years. Everyone knows the circumstances under which my father was killed. The next day, I was appointed chairman of the People’s Conference. One year later, I was kicked out by Hurriyat separatists. Both Mehbooba and Omar Abdullah have been groomed by their fathers and all the uncles and aunties they know in Delhi. They have a great network. I've had to learn from my mistakes. They don’t want any challenge, and I have shown the courage to challenge them. When Mehbooba tied up with the BJP, it was alright but when I make a similar attempt, we are labelled 'RSS'. When they tie up with the BJP, then it is alright. They don't want to see a "commoner" as chief minister.
Are you oversimplifying the problem?
No. This is the crux of the matter. I went to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union ministers after they won the 2014 elections and they (Mehbooba and Omar) found this unacceptable. Why should someone else create his own sphere? No doubt, they had their fathers to help them.
Are you blaming these two families for what is happening in Kashmir?
They have been at the helm for most of the time. The tipping point was 1987 and for the last 30 years, our state has not been able to come out of this vortex of violence. This is not to say this violence will not end. It will happen, but there can be no short-term solutions.
Are there apprehensions about the inroads RSS is making in the Valley?
Assuming there are apprehensions, all political parties have been with them (BJP) at one time or another. Mehbooba was with them for three years. Omar received his baptism in politics when he was made the poster boy of the NDA under the leadership of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In today's Kashmir, we are apprehensive about everybody. Today, they are calling me names but tomorrow these same parties will not hesitate to join hands with the BJP for power. Politics is the art of the possible and we cannot have a situation where there are different rules for different people.
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 19:46:31 IST