Srinagar:Seeking to revive its electoral prospects and mend its tarnished image, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has announced it will conduct its biggest-ever political rally in Srinagar on Saturday. The stated aim of the rally is to reclaim the broken “social ethos” and present the “political road map” to solve the raging conflict in Kashmir.
“This will be the first political rally by any mainstream party in Kashmir after two years of unrest and violence,” PDP general secretary Nizamudin Bhat said. “The party will hold the rally to
commemorate its foundation day on Saturday. The rally will be significant for us as we will be connecting with our leaders and workers from across Kashmir.”
Bhat said the party was expecting the participation of over 20,000 workers from across Kashmir at the venue, cricket stadium Sonawar.
“The party will take up the political and economic issues currently facing Kashmir. We will discuss the PDP’s political road map regarding our stand on political issues like on the Indo-Pak enmity and the Agenda of Alliance (with the BJP),” Bhat said.
Besides, he said, the party will dedicate itself to restoring the broken social ethos of Kashmir. “We will be taking up the important social issues. We feel that our society is losing its touch with its history and social ethos. This is an area of concern for us. We want to tell the people about the values that were unique to us. We should reclaim them,” Bhat said. The PDP is facing tremendous pressure since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani last year. Its legislators and ministers have almost stopped visiting south Kashmir, the electoral base of the party, while a large number of party workers have reportedly fled their homes. “PDP does not subscribe to the view that our legislators are disconnected with the ground situation. You can check that all of our workers are currently staying in their respective constituencies,” Bhat said. “Right now, the PDP is the strongest mainstream party in the entire Valley.” Another reason for PDP’s image hitting a low has been its coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Time will tell whether we did wrong or right,” Bhat said. “The BJP, which used to propagate the abrogation of Article 370, is now saying it won’t do anything to weaken it. This has been a welcome change.”
Bhat said the entire PDP leadership, including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, will be present at the rally on Saturday. Commenting on the proposed rally, political analyst Gowhar Geelani said, “The PDP perhaps wants to address two constituencies simultaneously. It wants to say to New Delhi that PDP is a still a political force to reckon with. And it wants to say to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that it cannot be written off, as yet.” Geelani said the size of the rally will not reflect the PDP’s strength on the ground because the party will use all its might to assemble “job seekers, the gullible, and the dependents (on government support).” “A civilian or armed rebel killed by government forces spontaneously attracts 30,000 people at his funeral. On Burhan Wani’s funeral, 2.5 lakh people assembled at Tral’s Idgah to pay tributes. Pro-resistance leaders have been the biggest crowd pullers in Kashmir, attracting up to half a million people in pro-freedom rallies in 2008, 2010, 2016 or earlier in the 1990s,” Geelani said. On July 15, while finalising arrangements with the zonal and district presidents of the PDP, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had accepted that her government had been unable to normalise the situation on the ground. She acknowledged that the situation had not been normal in Kashmir ever since her party came to power. She urged party workers, leaders and activists to “connect with the people”. Police sources said that elaborate security arrangements are being put in place for securing the rally. “The choosing of cricket stadium Sonwar has been a strategic decision. It is away from the market and residential areas. Vehicles from south Kashmir can easily reach through the Batwara route. On our side, we are satisfied and believe that no untoward incident will take place,” a senior police officer said.