Srinagar: In a radical departure from the separatists’ known stand of boycotting elections in Jammu and Kashmir, People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone on Saturday announced his decision to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The 42-year-old separatist leader, who is the chairman of breakaway People’s Conference, however, said his decision to “fight elections is a change of strategy and not ideology.”
This was not a victory of democracy but a “commitment to use this mechanism (polls) as a method to represent the voice of the Kashmiri people”, he told a press conference here.
Asked whether his decision was a setback to separatists, Lone said it was not so as they had never “owned him”.
“If we make success out of it (elections), the struggle will go from streets to institutions (Parliament),” he said.
In a muted reaction, Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of separatist outfits, said Lone’s decision to contest the elections was a personal one.
“This is his personal decision. We have nothing to do with it,” Hurriyat’s acting chairman Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari told PTI.
Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has launched a poll boycott campaign, was not available for comments.
The People’s Conference leader said Pakistan or ”some agencies” might not like his decision, but added he needed to make a bid to reach Parliament as he wanted a bigger platform to “represent Kashmiri people”.
Lone, son of one of Hurriyat Conference’s founder leaders Abdul Ghani Lone, said he should not be “pre-judged”, but should be allowed to pursue his “new method” of the same “ideology”.
“Give me a chance... Pray for my victory,” he said.
Insisting that his decision would not affect the separatist cause, Lone said “separatism is much bigger than a separatist”.
Giving reasons for his decision, he said he had “no choice” as no space was given to him by the Hurriyat Conference.
“I am not seeking any power. If I had wanted power, I would have contested assembly elections,” the separatist leader said.