The BJP on Monday witnessed a comfortable victory against Congress in the crucial Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) elections, despite the recent hiccups over people's demand to grant special status to Ladakh after the scrapping of Article 370.
BJP, INC, AAP and 23 Independent candidates contested the polls for 26 seats. Leh recorded a 65.07 per cent turnout in the 6th Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) elections on Thursday, an official spokesman had said.
The BJP won 15 of the 26 seats, while the Congress bagged nine. Two seats were won by the Independent candidates, who were formerly associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP sailed through despite the dissent by some people over scrapping of Article 370, which had fuelled fears in the region that their land and jobs will now be taken up by people from all over the country. That notwithstanding people were extremely happy with the grant of Union Territory status to the Ladakh, a long standing demand of the Buddhist dominated region.
However, the other region of Ladakh, which is the Muslim-dominated Kargil, does not share a similar sentiment and wants to be a part of Kashmir.
Last month, residents of Ladakh including students, had staged a protest demanding Sixth Schedule, on the lines of Article 371. This, to safeguard the land, its jobs, scholarships and cultures, they had said.
"We are one lakh plus people and the environment of our place is very fragile. There is dearth of drinking water in the summer period and cost of sustaining life in winters is very tough. We are not in a position to share resources," a student leader had told News18 during a massive campaign organised to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule.
Moreover, political parties, including the BJP had decided to boycott the LAHDC if the central government did not grant Sixth Schedule to the region.
The top BJP managers immediately rushed to two emissaries in Leh to placate the leadership. Later, Union Home Minister Amit Shah met the Ladakh delegation and promised them to look into the matter of protecting the pride and identity of Ladakh.
Conceding the BJP's victory in LAHDC polls, Congress leader Rigzin Spalbar said had the issue of Sixth Schedule cropped up three months back, the results would have been different. "The grant of UT is still fresh in the minds of people here. The BJP could have managed a landslide victory but it being non-committal on Sixth Schedule cost it dearly," he said.
"The demand of the Sixth Schedule helped the Congress. Otherwise, there was no contest," he admitted.
In the 30-member LAHDC, 26 are elected, while four councilors are nominated by the government with no voting rights. In the current dispensation, the BJP has 18 elected members, Congress has five, National conference has two and Independent has one.
Since the formation of the hill council in 1995, the Congress had swept the polls thrice, while the Ladakh Union Territorial Front had won the elections in 2005. The BJP wrested control of the council from Congress for the first time in the last elections by winning 18 out of 26 seats.
Kargil district of Ladakh had a separate hill council which was elected in 2018 for a five-year term.
Expressing joy over today's victory, BJP MP from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering, tweeted, "Major victory for @BJP4 in UT Ladakh. BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh elections. BJP will form LAHDC Leh once again."
Major victory for @BJP4 in UT Ladakh. BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh elections.
BJP will form LAHDC Leh once again.
— Jamyang Tsering Namgyal (@JTNBJP) October 26, 2020
Another BJP leader Ram Madhav tweeted, "First major victory for BJP in UT Ladakh. BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in the Leh Autonomous District Council elections. Congrats team BJP, Ladakh UT."
First major victory for BJP in UT Ladakh. BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in the Leh Autonomous District Council elections. Congrats team BJP, Ladakh UT
— Ram Madhav (@rammadhavbjp) October 26, 2020
The elections were seen as a litmus test for political parties following the Centre's decision to scrap special constitutional position of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state and carving of Ladakh into Union territory.