How Congress-NC swept Ladakh’s first post- 370 poll

All 13 Muslims candidates fielded by the BJP lost the election

KARGIL | Updated: 09 October, 2023 4:48 pm IST
Congress and National Conference (NC) alliance has won a landslide victory in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council elections in Kargil.

KARGIL: The Congress and National Conference (NC) alliance has won a landslide victory in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council (LAHDC) elections in Kargil.

Out of the 26 seats at stake, the Congress secured 10, the National Conference 12, while the BJP managed only two, with the remaining two seats going to independent candidates.

This was the first major election in Kargil after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and the conversion of Ladakh into a Union territory. The election was seen as a referendum on the BJP’s rule in Ladakh.

This Congress and NC fielded 17 and 22 candidates, respectively, strategically contesting areas where the BJP posed a significant challenge.

The Congress-NC alliance campaigned on a promise to continue fighting for restoring Ladakh’s statehood and to protect the region’s unique identity and culture. The alliance also promised to address the region’s economic problems, such as unemployment and high prices.

The BJP, on the other hand, campaigned on a promise of development and progress. The party also highlighted the fact that it was the BJP that had brought Ladakh out of Jammu and Kashmir and made it a separate Union territory.

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However, the BJP’s campaign failed to convince the voters of Kargil. The party’s vote share fell from 40% in the 2019 LAHDC elections to 25% in the 2023 elections.

Out of the 17 BJP candidates in this election, 13 were from the Muslim community, and 4 were from the Buddhists. Of these, only two Buddhist candidates secured victories, with the rest narrowly missing out. None of the 13 Muslim candidates managed to win, which some local BJP leaders attribute to a perceived atmosphere created by opposition forces, suggesting that BJP works against Muslims nationwide.

In the previous election held in 2019, the BJP had secured 15 seats, while the Congress had won 9, with 2 seats going to other parties.

NC leader Altaf Hussain, who won from the Chuliskamboo constituency with 1480 votes, told The New Indian that the election results serve as a morale boost for the party workers and the recently formed INDIA alliance.

Hussain also vowed to bring transparency, accountability, and increased budget allocation to the LAHDC, promote renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, enhance education infrastructure, and expedite the completion of the Zojilla Tunnel.

“Work on a 200-bedded hospital is almost completed. We will improve the infrastructure of this hospital and also work to increase the infrastructure in our district/block level hospitals,” he added.

Kacho Mohammad Feroz from Congress, who won the Pashkum constituency with 1756 votes, credited the party’s strong local leadership and Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Kargil for the victory. He attributed the election outcome to a growing sense of dissatisfaction with BJP’s policies.

“All the religious, social and business organisations have united against the BJP. The polarisation which is going on in the rest of the country has also impacted the people’s vote here. There’s anger all over,” he told The New Indian.

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Stanzin Lakpa, the BJP candidate who won from Cha-Lungnak with 798 votes, described Kargil as a strategically important border region and claimed that BJP successfully influenced the local populace with its nationalist ideology, despite external influences.

NC vice president Omar Abdullah called for the recognition of the people’s desire for a democratically elected government in Jammu and Kashmir while PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti praised the victory of secular parties in Kargil.

Local BJP MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal sought to highlight the increase in the party’s vote share despite its loss.

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