Ladakh Leads Kashmir Turnout At 65%, Keeps Tryst With Democracy

7 May 2014
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Ladakh parliamentary seat continued its tryst with vibrant democracy on Wednesday by leading the Kashmir region with highest poll percentage of around 65 percent. While Kargil leads with 65.8 percent, Leh voter turnout was at 64 percent, though six percent less than the 2009 polls, when the region registered 71.86 poll percentage. Voters queued up in the towns of Muslim majority-Kargil and Buddhist-dominated Leh since early morning to touch around 50 percent turnout around the noon only. The two towns are around 200 km away from each other and remains the centre of politics of the constituency. 'I have come to vote for the leader who believes in inclusive politics. Leh needs a secular leader to lead and change the development scenario of the area,' said Feroze Khan (29), a cargo agency owner, who cast his vote at a polling booth housed at Polo Ground in Leh town. The cold desert has 80,589 voters in Kargil-Zanskar and 79,042 in Buddhist-dominated Leh-Nobra. The farthest away assembly segment of Zanskar with around 5,000 votes also witnessed brisk voting since the morning. 'I participated because I want to elect a representative who will help us to have an all-weather road with Kargil and a road connection with Manali. These two roads can bring the area on the tourism map, particularly Luma, Stod and Sham valleys,' said Skalzang Wangyal, a resident of Zanskar, 200 km away from Kargil. Wangyal also points out why there is a slight dip in voter percentage compared to the 2009 polls. 'Many locals have gone out for studies, work etc. Otherwise, the region would have registered more than 80 percent polling,' said Wangyal. Hundreds of voters also remained stuck in the valley because of the closure of the Srinagar-Kargil highway due to snow accumulation. With almost half the electorate female, polling booths saw huge number of women voters, both in Leh and Kargil towns. 'We want better facilities for Ladakh region,' said Rukhsana Jabeen, a resident of Kargil town. Voting, though moderate, was also reported from inaccessible areas of Lingsshet, Skumpata, Dipling, Hunkar, Markha, Rumbak and Nyraks where polling staff was airdropped two days ago. Dumchuk polling station, which is just 50 metres away, saw slow polling because of sparse population till noon. There were seven polling stations - Chumur, Demchok, Mann, Merak, Khaktad, Korjok and Chusul - bordering China. The polling stations bordering Pakistan - Dha, Beima, Hanu, Tyaksh, Thang, Bojhdag, Chalunkha, Turtuk - also witnessed polling. It is a triangular fight in Ladakh between Leh-based National Conference-Congress united candidate Tsering Samphel, BJP's Thupstan Chhewang and Kargil-based Ghulam Raza, a former Congress district president who resigned recently to contest as an independent candidate from Kargil. Kashmir valley witnessed below 30 percent poll percentage in the first two phases in Anantnag and Srinagar, while two phases of Jammu registered around 70 percent turnout.