The outcome of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Kargil (LAHDC-K) election, held last week, has an importance that goes beyond the territorial limits of the Council. The National Conference- Congress alliance has won a landslide victory, and the BJP has suffered a humiliating defeat.
The National Conference won 12 seats, while the Congress secured 10 seats in the 26-member Council. The BJP won two seats, including one seat where the NC and Congress had fielded candidates against each other. Two seats were won by independents. This was the first election to be held for the Council after it was carved out of the former Jammu & Kashmir state in August 2019. The strength of the electorate is over 74,000. There was a high voter turnout of 78 per cent, 8 per cent more than the turnout in the 2018 elections. The increase was mainly due to the return of Kargil’s migrant population to vote in the elections.
The BJP had hoped to make a mark in the elections, expecting that its performance would be a validation of the decision to scrap Article 370 and to divide the state into two Union Territories. It had implemented some development projects in the area, such as expansion of the road network. It had also set up some new educational institutions and reserved lower-rung jobs for locals. But there seems to be a tide of resentment against the party. The high voter turnout and the return of migrants were signs of the keenness of the people to make a statement through the elections. The BJP had exercised total control over the administration in the last four years and this had alienated large sections of people. The BJP has also not been receptive to Ladakh’s strong demand for grant of special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution for protection of land and the unique identity of the people.
The National Conference has said that the outcome of the election was a message from the people of Ladakh against the scrapping of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the state of Jammu & Kashmir “without the consent of the people.’’
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to the Union Territory, which evoked a lot of interest, had given a boost to the Congress. The BJP controls the other Hill Council in the UT, called the LAHDC-Leh. With the holding of elections in the Kargil Council, there are louder demands for holding elections in Jammu & Kashmir. There is also the demand for statehood or merger with J&K. Whatever may be the impact, the Opposition I.N.D.I.A may be considered to have won its first electoral victory in Kargil.
(Published 13 October 2023, 20:00 IST)