The National Conference-Congress alliance has logged a massive victory in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council elections in Kargil, decisively defeating the BJP in the first-ever local elections held after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into two Union Territories.
The counting of votes in the 26-seat hill council began this morning. The alliance has bagged 18 seats – National Conference has won on 10 and its ally, the Congress, on eight – after counting was completed on 21 seats. The BJP has managed to win two seats so far.
Counting is underway in the remaining five seats. As many as 85 candidates were in the contest for the 26 seats.
The Opposition held the elections to be a referendum on the Centre’s decision to scrap Article 370.
During the polling, most voters talked about identity issues following the abrogation and the absence of a democratic representation under the Union Territory administration.
Many voters said that they wanted a reunion with Jammu and Kashmir and that the Union Territory experiment failed to deliver.
“We want our statehood back. We didn’t get anything being a UT and our children are unemployed,” a Kargil local said.
At a poll rally, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah urged voters to send a “clear message to reject or accept” the NDA government’s August 5, 2019 decision.
Earlier, the Ladakh administration had denied the “plough” symbol to National Conference candidates, leading to a legal battle and the Supreme Court set aside the polls that were earlier scheduled for September 10.
Over the last three years, political parties, and social and religious groups in Ladakh have forged an alliance opposing Ladakh’s UT status and demanding full statehood and constitutional protection under the sixth schedule.
The rare political alliance between Buddhist and Muslim groups in the Leh and Kargil districts is posing a major challenge to the BJP’s electoral prospects in Ladakh.