Battle Lines Drawn For Leh Elections; BJP, Cong Go All Out To Wrest Control

27 September 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Battle lines have been drawn in mountain locked Leh district for the control of all powerful Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LADHC), Leh with the demand of Union Territory (UT) status for Ladakh again coming into the limelight but the Council-specific development taking the centre-stage between two arch rivals-the BJP and Congress. Prestige of the elections this time when the BJP was going all out to wrest control of the LAHDC Leh for the first time can be well gauged from the fact that Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and MLA Leh Nawang Rigzin Jora has decided to skip entire Assembly session from Oct 3-10 and devote the time to victory of the Congress candidates. He has appointed Deputy Leader of the CLP Aijaz Ahmad Khan as the officiating CLP leader for the session. The BJP has deputed number of MLAs and MPs to camp in Leh for the elections and the Ministers would be heading next to Leh once the election campaign gains momentum. The BJP Minister and MLAs would miss the Assembly in rotation for campaigning in Leh. Polling is schedule for October 17. While first ever BJP MP from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang maintained that the BJP is going to wrest control of the LAHDC Leh for the first time by getting majority, his arch political rival and Congress MLA from Leh Nawang Rigzin Jora declared that the party would improve its performance in the elections by taking its tally from 22 to 24 in the House of 26 elected members. Thupstan Chhewang, who had created history in May last year by winning Ladakh Lok Sabha seat for the BJP for the first time, told the Excelsior that the BJP was going to repeat Lok Sabha history in the Council elections. 'The people are with us. They have made up their mind to give BJP the chance. We will get the majority,' Chhewang said. Though, according to the BJP MP, the issues of Union Territory status for Ladakh, opening of Kailash Mansarovar yatra route to China from Ladakh, inclusion of Boti language in 8th schedule of the Constitution of India and setting up of Central University and Government Medical College in Ladakh were major issues of the BJP, the empowerment of the Council for development of Leh would be prime focus in the Council elections. 'We want review of 20 years old Act of the LAHDC Leh to give the Council more power, which would subsequently lead to more development of Leh,' the BJP MP said expressing confidence of the BJP victory. CLP leader Nawang Rigzin Jora, who is spearheading the Congress campaign, said the people of Leh now felt that they have been 'cheated' by the BJP's 'hollow slogans' of UT status, Kailash Mansarovar route, Boti language etc and that was why after Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won both Assembly seats in Leh in December last year. 'We will put up a good show (in the elections). We are going to improve our performance from 22 seats in last Council to 24 this time. We have Council-specific issues as our main agenda including construction of road and providing the people water, electricity, agriculture etc,' Jora said, adding as far as UT is concerned all Ladakhis support the demand but they also know the constraints and the time for it. Disclosing that he will not be attending autumn session of the Legislature from October 3 to 10 to devote full time for the party campaigning in the elections, Jora, who is the CLP leader of 12 MLAs in the Legislative Assembly said the BJP only banks upon Narendra Modi but they must know that the Congress won both Assembly seats of Leh even when Modi was the Prime Minister. Sourced said it was not only Jora, who will give a miss to the Assembly, the BJP was also proposing to station several MLAs permanently in Leh till elections to wrest control of the Council at any cost. Not only the MLAs, several BJP Ministers and senior leaders were scheduled to campaign in Leh for the party victory. 'We are going to wrest control of the LAHDC Leh for the first time. It will be an easy win for us,' said one of the BJP MLAs camping in Leh for the past several days. A number of BJP MLAs have already reached Leh and the Ministers would follow them once the campaign speeds up. LAHDC Leh, Chief Executive Council (CEC) Rigzin Spalbar, who is seeking fifth straight term from Upper Leh this time, said the present Council, which was the fourth in Leh as the first Council was set up in 1995, was the best ever for development of Leh. 'We have published 'Book of Achievements' of 5 years. We have track record and history of development and the people will give us vote again,' Spalbar said. The NC and PDP, which didn't have much stakes in the Council elections, were also eyeing few seats and their leaders would also campaign for the elections. The Leh Buddhist Association (LBA), which holds considerable influence among Buddhist dominated Leh, has decided to stay apolitical. 'We are not going to support any political party or candidates. We will only appeal to the people of Leh to elect clean, honest and dedicated candidates for development of Leh,' LBA president Chewang Thinless said. In the outgoing Council, out of 26 seats, Congress had 22 and BJP 4. NC and PDP had drawn blank. In May 2014, the BJP had created history by winning Ladakh Lok Sabha seat for the first time. However, in November-December Assembly elections in 2014, the Congress struck back by winning both Assembly seats in Leh.