Spread over 1,73,266.37 sq km, the cold desert of Ladakh holds the unique distinction of being the parliamentary constituency with the largest area in the country.
Situated at an altitude of 2,900 to 5,400m, Ladakh is the only place in the country which shares borders with both Pakistan and China. The constituency also houses the world's highest battlefield of Siachen Glacier, at an altitude of 21,000 feet.
This time around, the roof of the world is, however, witnessing a fierce contest between two old war horses for a new, developed and secure Ladakh.
While Congress has fielded the former member of National Commission for Schedule Tribes, Tsering Samphel, the BJP has reposed faith in Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) leader Thupstan Chewang.
With and an electorate of 1,59,949 (81,168 male and 78,781 female), Ladakh parliamentary constituency goes to polls on May 7.
In 2009 National Conference (NC) rebel Hassan Khan, hailing from Kargil, defeated the official nominee of Congress-NC, P Namgyal, by over 3,600 votes. Khan later did an about turn and announced support to NC. This time too tension is brewing in the Muslim majority Kargil against the coalition candidate. Muslim Leaders in Kargil are yet to pledge support to him raising suspicion about the possibility of an independent candidate backed by influential Islamic bodies in Kargil being fielded.
"We have yet to see the situation on the ground. Only after an analysis will we be able to take a decision," said Asgar Ali Karbalaie, chief executive councilor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil.
BJP is banking on the emotive issues of union territory status for Ladakh and foolproof security. And the Congress is hoping that its development mantra will swing the pendulum in its favor.
"Ladakhis have been fighting for UT status for long. Congress has always betrayed people. We hope once the Narendra Modi government takes over at the Centre, Ladakh will get UT status," said Tsewang Tundup, general secretary, BJP Leh.
Spread over two districts of Leh and Kargil, the Ladakh constituency has four assembly segments. Two of the constituencies of Muslim majority Kargil district are held by the National Conference. The two assembly seats in the Buddhist-majority Leh district is held by the Congress and an independent.
Ladakh is the only division in the state which is not disturbed and where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is not applicable. There are two separate Autonomous Hill Councils for Leh and Kargil to undertake and oversee the development process in the division.
"We are fighting on the developmental plank of Ladakh. Power, roads, schools, health care are our issues. We have developed the area in a huge way. We do not want to exploit UT status for votes unlike the BJP. UT status is a bigger and long standing issue," said Tsering Samphel, the Congress candidate from Ladakh.
The parliamentary elections in Ladakh is being held exactly a year after the Chinese army crossed 19 km deep into the Indian territory at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector on LAC and set up the tented posts on the intervening night of April 15 and 16, 2013. The 20-day standoff ended on May 5 when troops from both sides withdrew to the pre-incursion positions on the LAC.
"Congress-led government did nothing to prevent incursion by the Chinese in border areas. People living there have migrated because of fear. Only Modi can ensure the security of the borders," said Tundup.
But Congress dismisses the charge saying the border management is better and the incursions are no more an issue in Ladakh.