RIVETING 4-WAY BATTLE FOR LADAKH SEAT

With just four candidates in the fray, electoral battle for Ladakh parliamentary constituency of Jammu and Kashmir has become as interesting as it is tough for the contestants, poll watchers say.

Scheduled to go for polling on May 6, the seat is witnessing a tough battle between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-National Conference (NC) backed independent candidate.

The constituency, spread over Leh and Kargil districts, sharing borders with Pakistan and China, is geographically one of the largest and population-wise one of the smallest in the country.

The Ladakh region of the state has its own issues, dissimilar to those in Kashmir valley or the Jammu division. Politically, Ladakh has always been closer to New Delhi than to Srinagar or Jammu, the two administrative capitals of J&K.

Ladakh has 174,618 voters, 86752 are males, 85064 females, 2799 are service voters and 3 transgender.

The candidates in fray are Rigzin Spalbar of Congress, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of BJP, Sajjad Hussain is backed by PDP and NC, and influential Congress rebel Asgar Ali Karbalai, who remained CEC of LAHDC, Kargil and former MLA, both independents.

Historically the contest of Ladakh seat based on support by religious schools of Muslim and Buddhist faiths of Kargil and Leh and irrespective of political affiliations but after former Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) activist and former minister Rigzin Jora joined Congress and LUFT founder and two time member parliament Thupstan Chhewang merged with BJP in 2010, the fight become politically more significant.

Chhewang won seat in 2004 as Independent candidate and representative of LUTF and in second term he won the seat in 2014 as BJP candidate but later resigned from the membership of the saffron party in November last year, saying that all promises made by the BJP sounded like “empty rhetoric”.

The contest is now largely among the BJP, the Congress and independent Sajjad Hussain.

During the last parliamentary elections in 2014, the Congress had fielded senior Buddhist leader Tsering Samphel from Ladakh but it stood third in the contest while BJP win by a thin margin of just 36 votes from Shia-dominated Kargil district had supported Congress rebel Ghulam Raza who remained the runner-up in the polls.

However, the divisional status granted to Ladakh during presidential rule has reshaped and influenced the politics and polarised Leh and Kargil.

However, what’s thrown a spanner into the NC-PDP plan is the presence of Karbalai, former Congress MLA from Kargil, as independent. Karbalai deserted the Congress after he was denied a ticket.