This was the first electoral exercise in Ladakh after the region was cut out from Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, and declared a separate Union Territory (UT). In the LAHDC (Leh) elections held on October 22, 94 candidates were in the fray.
Out of the total 89,789 votes, about 58,430 votes (65.07 per cent) were cast, almost equal to the votes polled in the previous elections in 2015.
“In the run-up to this election, the party structure in Leh was disturbed. Otherwise we would have won all 26 seats,” senior BJP leader Dorji Angchuk, who lost the election, told ET.
He gave credit to the “developmental agenda” pursued by the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ladakh for the party winning majority of the seats.
The election results once again pushed the Congress on the back foot, even though the party nearly doubled its tally in the council. “We lost at a few places with very narrow margins. We were fighting against government machinery and bags full of money. It was difficult, but our expectation was better than what we managed to do on the ground,” said senior Congress leader and former minister Nawang Rigzin Jora. He said BJP ministers and leaders from Delhi had camped in Leh during the campaign and made announcements which had an impact on the ground.
The hill council in Leh was created under the LAHDC Act in 1995 and later another hill council in Kargil was formed in 2003. After Ladakh was declared a separate UT, local leaders alleged that the council had been reduced to a toothless tiger, with no financial, revenue and constitutional powers.
Now that the BJP has won the election, it is staring at the challenge of implementing Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the region to safeguard land, jobs, culture, language and ethnicity of the region.
Earlier, People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule for Ladakh – comprising influential religious, political, cultural and civil society groups – had called for election boycott demanding constitutional safeguards under Sixth Schedule for the newly formed UT. It withdrew the boycott call when Union home minister Amit Shah assured that its demands would be met within 15 days of the new LAHDC being formed.
The elections happened at a time when India and China are engaged in a protracted face-off in eastern Ladakh, since May this year and communication lines are often down in the region due to security reasons. A fresh wave of Covid-19 pandemic also posed a challenge during the elections.