Cold desert Ladakh seat to witness quadrangular contest

Having a polling booth for the least number of voters and one at the highest altitude in the country at 14,890 ft above the sea level, cold desert Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir is set to witness quadrangular contest between BJP, Congress and two independent candidates. 

The polling in Ladakh LS seat, the largest parliament segment in India in terms of area with a total area of 173266.37 km2 - which has a total of four assembly segments - Nobra, Leh, Kargil and Zanskar - is scheduled on May 6 in the last phase of the election in the state.  

In 2014 general election, BJP’s Thupstan Chhewang defeated Ghulam Raza an independent candidate by mere 36 votes.  Like 2014, this time also only four candidates are in the fray - two each from Leh and Kargil districts - affiliated with same political parties and religious organizations. 

Political observed say it will be a close contest among Jamyang Tsering Namgayal (BJP), who is chairman-cum-chief executive councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, Rigzin Spalbar (Congress), Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie (Independent), who was Congress MLA from Kargil in the last Assembly and Sajjad Kargili, a journalist-turned-politician.

While Karbalaie is backed by Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT), Kargili is the candidate of powerful Islamiya School Kargil (ISK) and has also the support of regional National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

They say the battle lines have once again been drawn between Leh and Kargil districts. In February this year when the Governor’s administration granted divisional headquarters to Ladakh, Kargil had united and resorted to massive protests demanding rotational divisional headquarters as the administration had fixed the headquarters at Leh. The protests had forced the authorities to rotate the divisional headquarters between the two districts.

While in Buddhist-dominated Leh, the fight would be directly between BJP and Congress candidates, in Muslim-dominated Kargil, the contest is mainly between Karbalaie and Sajjad. Ladakh was long represented by Congress until independent candidates Thupstan Chhewang and Hassan Khan won in 2004 and 2009 respectively. Khan was earlier associated with National Conference and had won the seat in 1999. Chhewang joined the BJP in 2014 but resigned from BJP’s basic membership and renounced his seats from Ladakh in 2018.

One of the polling stations in the constituency for casting votes for just 12 voters has been set up at Gaik village under Leh assembly segment. The voters at Gaik village include only five males and seven females.

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