Any alliance with BJP only after elections: People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone
"Peoples Conference will fight the assembly elections alone. We would not have an alliance. Once results are out, we may think of one."
What did Prime Minister Narendra Modi and you discuss on Monday?
Sajjad Lone: We did not discuss politics. We talked about floods, rehabilitation, having Srinagar in the list of smart cities, development and the northern corridor. Mr Modi gave me his vision for Srinagar.
Why did do you meet other BJP leaders then?
Sajjad Lone: I have social relations with BJP leaders for more than 10 years. If some of them are in Srinagar, we would meet over tea. I met Mr Modi for the first time, but social meetings with other BJP leaders are routine. Congress is a national party but its leaders do not maintain social connections even though it has local presence. BJP lacks local presence, but has kept in touch.
What are the prospects of an alliance with BJP?
Sajjad Lone: Peoples Conference will fight the assembly elections alone. We would not have an alliance. Once results are out, we may think of one. I am not ruling out anything.
Is BJP ideologically different from Congress?
Sajjad Lone: Both of them adhere to a national policy on Kashmir. But when BJP is in power, it has been more liberal than Congress. Mr Vajpayee was more liberal than Dr Manmohan Singh. He was forthcoming in his utterances and spoke from the heart. But on Article 370, autonomy etc, I hardly see any difference between the two. The two parties may be different ideological entities outside J&K.
Is not BJP vocal about repealing Article 370?
Sajjad Lone: BJP may have a different stand but we believe Article 370 has to be there. BJP wants a discussion on Article 370. A discussion can go any way. It may even enhance our position. I have never talked to them on this subject, even remotely because of the floods. In all the talks we had, my focus has always remained on development and rebuilding Kashmir.
How is Modi different from Manmohan Singh?
Sajjad Lone: Both are illustrious leaders. Dr Manmohan Singh is a great economist and I respect him. But Mr Modi has the capacity to bridge the gap with his audience. He is able to reach out and has excellent communication skills. There is a touch of informality while he reaches out. He puts off protocol and communicates person-to-person, which is exceptional.
What are your prospects in the polls?
Sajjad Lone: We will do very well but I cannot give a number on seats we will win. We will have a good, humble beginning. We want to overcome the psychological barrier of entering the assembly.