Ladakh Poll Results: BJP Don’t See “Acche Din”by Opinion Express October 24, 2018 0 comments
Although the poll machinery combs the ground for important issues, BJP failed to nurture it’s most favourable constituency.
Uncontested as the local body elections in Kashmir were by the People’s Democratic Party and National Conference, the BJP was expected to romp home in an unprecedented manner which it did on an embarrassingly low voter turnout ranging from five to nine per cent of those eligible to vote. In the bargain, it scored what is likely to turn out be a pyrrhic victory in 20 civic bodies including in the militancy-hit districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian of the Valley. But the real story of these polls lies in the fact that the disappointed Kargil and Ladakh voter hit back savagely at the BJP which failed to open its account in the region, considered simpatico to the saffron outfit. Of the total 26 wards in this region, the Congress bagged all the 13 seats in the Leh municipal committee and won five wards in neighbouring Kargil.
That this result came about despite the dangling of promises and having the local MP Thupstan Chhewang in its ranks, the message is that the BJP cannot take Ladakh for granted anymore and has to think about acceding to the region’s autonomy aspirations. Ladakhis have upped their demands for Union Territory status in recent months, something the BJP had promised while campaigning for the last General Election. The demand for UT status which many observers thought would subside after the approval to the draft Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which enables councils to collect and levy taxes and control various government departments in districts, shows no signs of doing so. At least partly because there has been no move to actualise it. Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention it when he laid the foundation stone for a tunnel at Zoji La which connects the Kashmir Valley to Ladakh and is expected to make the landlocked region more accessible during the five-month-long, snowy winter and is one of the necessary infrastructural moves to mainstream the region. The BJP perilously ignored warning bells of popular discontent when it was unexpectedly defeated by the Congress in byelections for the Shey-Thiksay seat in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), which runs the key district of Leh. The defeat was humiliating for more reasons than one. It happened despite the personal watch kept on the electoral battle by Chhewang and the Congress scored a win in a seat that had been held by the National Conference for long. Clearly, the BJP, whose poll machinery keenly combs the ground for trigger issues and has the number-game on its finger tips, has failed to nurture what could be its most favourable constituency, what with Buddhists and Hindus having a combined population of nearly 1,41,968 in Leh and Kargil districts; Muslims are 1,27,295.
Ladakh is a bulwark region against China’s expansionist intentions, a spill-over from the 1962 war. Besides, the strategic Siachen Glacier is located right next to it. Politically, then, the party ruling at the Centre cannot afford to loosen its grip on Ladakh. It is time for the BJP to demonstrate its actionable capabilities considering the Congress is inching ahead promising the real, not the unattainable. Leave aside the demand for UT status, the BJP has also not moved to fulfil pledges like including the Bhoti language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and opening up the Kailash Mansarovar route via Ladakh.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer