Rahul Gandhi dons Kashmiri woollen attire Pheran over T-shirt to endure snow chill

SRINAGAR: Amid heavy snowfall and accompanying bone-chilling, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday arrived at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium surrounded by majestic Chinar trees donning Pheran, the iconic piece of warm clothing of the local people, evoking a thunderous applause from those present.

As he began to address the grand finale of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, an aide held an umbrella over him to protect him from snowflakes, but the Congress leader asked him to withdraw.

Mr. Gandhi’s sporting only T-shirts for his BJY even in the midst of severe cold in the parts of northern India took a political twist with Congress and the BJP trading barbs over the issue. His signature white T-shirt even dominated primetime television news debates in India. The Congress leader had while speaking in Kurukshetra sought to set the debate at rest when he said, “One day (during the BJY) in the morning, three poor children came to me in torn shirts, they were shivering when I held them...That day, I decided until I shiver, I will only be wearing a T-shirt. When I start shivering and feel cold, I would think of wearing a sweater”.

At the rally the surprise for many was Mr. Gandhi’s wearing Kashmir’s traditional long cloak over the signature half sleeve T-shirt and by doing it, as was put by a party leader, finally putting an end to “a pointless debate over his dress choice”.

Earlier during the day, Mr. Gandhi accompanied by his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Varda drove again to JKPCC headquarters along Srinagar’s Moulana Azad Road to unfurl the National Flag. As the snowfall which started overnight had already carpeted Srinagar and most other parts of the Valley in white, he was seen wearing a gilet or vest over the T-shirt and covering his head with a woollen cap. Ms. Priyanka had adorned herself with an embroidered Pheran.

After the flag hoisting ceremony, the cheerful siblings indulged in ‘sheen’a jung’, the snow war the Kashmiris wage at one another whenever graced with God's bounty-the snowfall. They threw snowballs at each other amid applause from the onlookers, mostly Congress leaders and workers, many of whom had walked with Mr. Gandhi from far off southern states. Congress president Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge who was wearing a heavy wool overcoat and a Karakul, the royal Kashmiri cap and a symbol of the Valley’s culture and tradition, while speaking at the BJY concluding rally said, “We have come here from Karnataka, and this (snowfall) is something new to us.”

The rally was attended by the leaders of several opposition parties apart from key politicians of the Congress party from across the country. However, many others who too had been invited to the event could not make it as the surface and air links between the Kashmir Valley and rest of the country were snapped due to heavy snowfall. For this reason, the party leaders and activists who walked into the Valley with Mr. Gandhi and those who flew to the mega rally and were scheduled to return to their respective places have been stuck in Srinagar.

In view of the freezing cold, the Congress on Monday bought winter wear including woollen garments and snowshoes for its non-local leaders and workers from the local market.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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