Sat. May 18th, 2024

Drass, the coldest inhabited place after Siberia, is gearing up for the upcoming Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council elections in Kargil. This will be the first election in the region since Article 370 was abolished and Ladakh became a separate Union Territory in August 2019.

The BJP and a coalition of the National Conference and Congress are locked in a fierce battle for control. Many see this vote as a referendum on whether the people have accepted the central government’s decision in 2019.

For residents like Mohammad Iqbal, this election holds significance beyond development issues. “Wednesday’s vote is more about the identity of the people than development,” said the 73-year-old, who has worked with the Army as a porter for 40 years. He expressed concerns over the loss of political power after Ladakh became a Union Territory, with no elected MLAs or ministers representing the region.

With 85 candidates vying for 26 seats, the BJP is contesting 17 seats and supporting some Independent candidates. Historically, Kargil has been a stronghold of the National Conference and the Congress has been its main challenger. However, for this election, the two rivals have formed an alliance to take on the BJP.

Religion also plays a significant role in Kargil’s politics, with influential religious institutions like the Jamiat Ulema Kargil and the Imam Khumaini Memorial Trust driving the narrative. These institutions have called on the people to vote against the BJP. During the campaign, BJP MP Jamyang Namgyal stirred controversy by referring to NC chief Farooq Abdullah as a figure of hate for Shia Muslims, comparing him to Yazid, who was involved in the killing of Imam Hussain in the battle of Karbala.

The election process faced legal battles, including a dispute over the allocation of the “plough” symbol to National Conference candidates. The Supreme Court eventually set aside the earlier scheduled polls and rescheduled them for October 4. The results will be declared on October 8.

These hill council elections are crucial as they take place amid a rare political alliance between Buddhist and Muslim groups in Ladakh. Over the past few years, these groups have united against Ladakh’s Union Territory status and have been demanding full statehood and constitutional protection under the 6th schedule.

By admin