Srinagar: The north Kashmir town of Sopore in Baramulla district on Tuesday witnessed an election rally with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders campaigning on tongas (horse-carts) for the ongoing District Development Council (DDC) elections.
The peculiar tonga rally was held in Mazbugh area of Sopore, five kilometres away from the main town, and the tongas were decorated with BJP flags.
Talking to KNO, Abdul Majeed, a Sarpanch from the area, said that it is for the first time in the past 30 years that a tonga rally was held “in favour of BJP” in the area.
Eyewitnesses said the rally was carried out amid a huge military and police deployment.
“This is a message of peace. In this rally, dozens of tonga drivers participated. We want to tell the people to come out and vote for the BJP candidate in the DDC polls and give the party a chance to serve the people of Sopore,” the Sarpanch said.
BJP General Secretary and J&K affairs in-charge, Vibodh Gupta, who was part of the rally, said that Sopore was once known as mini-London “but militancy and separatism blocked all means of development in this area.”
“Today’s Tonga rally is a direct message of people of Sopore that they are with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Though the BJP leaders shouted some slogans in favour of the party and Narendra Modi, many local participants shied away from being identified or captured in cameras, given the fact that supporting BJP in Kashmir is somewhat of a taboo and seen as a bigger ‘betrayal’.
Local women were seen hiding their faces with headscarves and dupattas while enjoying the ride.
“We promise the people of Sopore that if they choose a BJP candidate, we will set up an international [fruit] mandi in Sopore to give a fillip to the fruit market of Sopore,” the BJP General Secretary said on the occasion.
Gupta further said the “bumper polling” in the first two phases of DDC polls has given a message that “Kashmir has changed and there was no space for militancy and separatism”.
He said that BJP is committed to revive the economy of business hubs of Kashmir be that Lal Chowk of Srinagar or the once-popular mandi of Sopore.
Pertinently, Sopore, a town famous for its people production, is the hometown of senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani who recently called for a boycott of the ongoing DDC elections through his Pak-based representative, Abdullah Gilani.
The ailing patriarch hails from Dooru village of the town. On Tuesday, when the village was scheduled to go for polling, it kept with its tradition and boycotted the polls.
The village recorded a meagre 0.9 per cent voting. Electoral records revealed that the village polled only 15 votes against a total of 1600 registered voters.
However, scenes were slightly different in the broader Zaingeer area where some hundreds of voters turned up for voting.
In Dangerpora, Watlab, Warpora and Hathlangoo areas, many voters said though they know participating in elections have no bearing on the resolution of Kashmir issue, they have voted only with a hope that it will bring ‘development’ to their areas.
Many voters also said that keeping BJP at bay was their sole reason for taking part in the elections.
“There has been a lot of injustice with us so far. We don’t want to suffer any further,” a local said on Tuesday.
With additional inputs from KNO