Ladakh to vote on inclusiveness, local issuestext_fields
Srinagar: Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir has a unique distinction -- it is geographically the largest Parliamentary constituency in the country but smallest in terms of population.
The cold desert has some other special features too, like a polling station at Anlay Pho in Chanthang area established at an altitude of 15,000 feet above the sea-level.
There are places in the Ladakh where polling stations have been set up for just 7 voters -- Gaik polling station in Leh and Washi in Nubra segments.
The constituency has two districts -- Leh and Kargil. While Leh predominately has Buddhist population, Kargil has mostly Muslim population.
The region, where the demand for Union Territory status has been predominant for years, will see a four-cornered contest when polling takes place on May 6.
The four candidates in the fray are Rigzin Spalbar of the Congress, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of the BJP and two independents, Haji Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sujjad Hussain.
The seat was last time won by BJP's Thupstan Chhewang who defeated independent candidate Gulam Raza by just 36 votes.
Chhewang, however, resigned from both the party and Parliament last year, accusing the BJP of not fulfilling the promises made to the people of Ladakh.
This time, the BJP has fielded Jamgang Tsering Namgyal, the Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) of the powerful Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC).
Ladakh was granted the divisional status by Governor Satya Pal Malik, who is governing the state where President's rule was imposed in December last year.
The grant of the divisional status, setting up of a separate campus of the Kashmir University and huge central findings for exploiting the solar power potential of the region are likely to help the BJP in the constituency.
Spalbar, on his part, promises to bring the region closer to New Delhi, more than has been done by the BJP during its five years in power at the centre.
Karbalai is a Congress rebel who belongs to Kargil district and is supported by the religious and social organisation, the Imam Khomeini memorial trust Kargil.
Sajjad Hussain, the other independent belonging to Kargil is supported by the Islamia school, another powerful social and religious organisation of the district.
Sajjad is also supported by the regional National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), both of which have not fielded any candidate from this constituency.
"Our Ladakh-specific election agenda is Union Territory status for Ladakh which means freedom from Kashmiri dominance," BJP candidate Namgyal told IANS,
"We want inclusion of our Bhoti language in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution. We want opening of Kalash Mansarovar Yatra route from Ladakh to Denjok. We demand Zojila tunnel and also opening of Pahalgam-Sanjoy route," he added.
Spalbar said, "Whenever Parliament elections are held in Ladakh, the region gets divided between Leh and Kargil, between the Buddhists and the Muslims. My first and foremost commitment is to end this divide which is traditionally created by vested interests."
Underlining that faith should not be a dividing factor, he said, "We have the same cultural, social, ethnic and geographical background. An MP elected by both Leh and Kargil would be the best person to bridge this divide. Unfortunately, in the past nobody tried to bridge this gap and I have decided to bridge this gap once and forever."
Hussain told IANS, "I am the unity candidate of Kargil. My priorities are connectivity, education, health sector and others."
He underscored the need for a medical college, a University, tunnels across the Zojila and Khardung La Passes "and, of course I stand for the protection of state's special status and I am against the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A."
The total number of voters in this constituency is 1,74,618 for whom 559 polling stations have been set up.
In addition to 86,752 male and 85,064 female electors, there are 2,799 service voters and three transgender voters.
The constituency has four Assembly segments of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Nubra.
The Kargil segment has 65,294, Leh 72,689, Nubra 14,148 and Zanskar 22,487 voters.