Ladakh-Leh polls: Set to make clean sweep, says BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday put up a brave front, saying the region’s people are in its favour and it would make a clean sweep in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC)-Leh polls on October 22. The polls are being held amid resentment over the BJP-led Centre’s failure in ensuring constitutional protection for Ladakh’s resources and cultural identity. There are demands for the implementation of Constitution’s Sixth Schedule in the region for these safeguards. Ladakh was split from Jammu & Kashmir and declared a Union Territory last year when Constitution’s Article 370, which that provided these safeguards, was also nullified.
“People are in favour of the BJP and the issue of the Sixth Schedule is over because the Apex Body of People’s Movement [ABPM] comprising older leaders recently went to Delhi, where they met [Union] home minister Amit Shah, who has given them an assurance to fulfil their demand,” said LAHDC chief executive councillor and BJP leader Gyal P Wangyal over the phone. “I am very much confident that the home minister will fulfil his promise.”
Wangyal, who emphasised he was not privy to the specifics of the talks between the apex body and Shah, said he has no doubt that the BJP will win the elections under Ladakh Parliament member Jamyang Tsering Namgyal’s leadership. Elections to the hill council are held every five years. The BJP has 18 seats in the outgoing 30-member council, while the Congress five, and the National Conference two. Former BJP lawmaker Thupstan Chhewang has formed the ABPM to seek constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule on the lines of north-eastern states. The umbrella group includes political and religious organisations and the Ladakh Buddhist Association. It is also seeking legislative powers for two councils in Leh and Kargil.
Chhewang resigned from the BJP in November 2018 over the BJP government’s failure in grating federal territory status to Ladakh as per the party’s 2014 election manifesto.
Chering Dorjay, a member of the apex body, said after Ladakh was given the Union Territory status without legislature on August 5 last year, the local people wanted safeguards under the Sixth Schedule for their land, jobs, language and culture. “It still remains the sentiment of the people in Leh and therefore when high command did not heed it, I resigned in protest in May,” said Dorjay.
“Within 15 day of the culmination of the hill council polls, Shah has assured to provide us safeguards under the Sixth Schedule. However, the exercise has to be preceded by the participation of the representatives elected in the polls. Further, we have to take the people of Kargil on board.”
Dorjay said the Sixth Schedule will guarantee no settlement of outsiders. “The outsiders cannot purchase land or property in the region. That is the main concern of the people here because Ladakh region has vast swathes of barren land and they are vulnerable to outsiders, who can come and settle anywhere.”
Saturday is the last day for filing of nominations for the 30-seat council. The scrutiny of nominations will be held on October 5. October 7 is the last day for withdrawal of nominations