Sopore sheds 'chhota Pak' tag as voter turnout surges

TNN Bureau. Updated: 5/21/2024 3:21:51 AM Front Page

Sopore: Once dubbed "chhota Pakistan", Jammu and Kashmir's Sopore town witnessed a remarkable shift as voters flocked to polling stations to exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections, marking a departure from the low participation witnessed in previous polls.
Formerly a hotbed of militancy and dominated by foreign terrorists in the 1990s, Sopore and Rafiabad areas experienced a resurgence of electoral engagement with a high voter turnout.
Sopore, lying in the Baramulla district, is a part of the Baramulla constituency.
Baramulla witnessed a closely-fought contest between National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, former two-time MLA and Independent candidate Engineer Rashid, and People's Conference chief Sajad Lone.
Locals such as Ishfaq from the Seelu village, who cast his first vote, expressed a newfound enthusiasm for the democratic process driving positive change in his community.
"I am happy that, after missing my right to vote on the previous occasion, I could vote today because, if I want to see things around me change, I have to be a part of the change," he said.
Historically plagued by minimal turnout, Sopore and Rafiabad witnessed a significant increase in voter participation this time, with Sopore recording 44.49 per cent and Rafiabad 59.40 per cent, according to the latest data.
Local voices, including Irfan Sheikh of Sopore, emphasised the importance of civic engagement, underlining that change requires active participation rather than passive observation.
"People have to come out to vote as things don't change while staying indoors or by boycotting," says Sheikh, a resident of the interiors of Sopore and an election agent of the National Conference.
The recent overtures made by the banned Jamaat-e-Islami on entering electoral politics also contributed to the increase in voter turnout, highlighting the organisation's influence in the region.
"No one can deny that the banned group has an influence. In the past, it used to threaten voters. But, today, nothing of that sort is happening," says Gazanfar Ali, a retired government servant.

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