For the first time, the country's largest constituency by sheer area, is witnessing the emergence of BJP, much to the discomfort of the Congress and National Conference (NC), which have traditionally won in Ladakh.
"Like the rest of the country, people in Ladakh are looking for a change. They have faith in Narendra Modi's development model," BJP's Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang told dna. "I am getting a favourable response from everywhere, even from Kargil, which is a Muslim-dominated district." With an electorate of 1.59 lakh voters, Ladakh Parliamentary constituency comprises four assembly segments — two each in Muslim-dominated Kargil and Buddhist-dominated Leh districts. And the BJP is working hard to ensure a victory when the constituency votes on May 7. Top BJP leaders are making a beeline for the cold desert to give a last push to Chhewang's campaign in this high-altitude constituency.
"We will hold a mega rally on Sunday, and expect more than 10,000 to attend. Central leaders, including former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, will address the meet. Earlier Mukhtar Abbaas Naqvi spent a day, campaigning in Kargil," said Chhewang. What has given the BJP reason to cheer is the rebellion in the Congress-NC coalition. Two Muslim candidates from Kargil are contesting as independents, which is expected to divide the Muslim vote.
"The Congress is a divided house. The district president has resigned to contest as an independent against the official Congress candidate. There is a strong division in the Congress and it is working in my favour," said Chhewang. Under the pact between the two ruling coalition partners, two Jammu seats and the lone Ladakh seat were given to the Congress while the National Conference contested the three seats from the valley.
But caught on the back foot, the Congress dismisses the possibility of a rising BJP or a Modi fervour. "There is no problem. I am expecting good votes from my segment. We will win this seat," said Congress candidate Tsering Samphel. "We are working at the grass root level and we are confident of winning this seat."
Spread over 1,73,266.37 sq km, Ladakh holds the distinction of being the Parliamentary constituency with the largest area in the country. It is the only undistrubed division in the state, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) does not apply here. There are two separate Autonomous Hill Councils for Leh and Kargil to undertake and oversee development in the division.