The dynamics of politics have brought in many ups and downs in Ladakh in the last few years. The recent Lok Sabha election process was unique, be it fielding new faces, sidelining of senior leaders and interference of outsiders in local matters, internal differences, resignation of MP Thupstan Chhewang in November, and the BJP leaders openly bribing the Leh media and threatening to file defamation against the Press Club, Leh.
The BJP had set its foot for the first time in Ladakh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Thupstan Chhewang won the seat against Congress candidate Ghulam Raza from Kargil by 36 votes. However, in the civic elections held in October, 2018, the Congress managed to win all the 13 wards. This, no doubt, had created a picture that the existence of BJP was under threat, but it proved wrong and BJP has managed to extend its hold in the region once again. The granting of the Divisional status to Ladakh a few months before the polls has surely worked in favour of the BJP.
Though it is believed that the BJP’s huge-margin win in Ladakh was fuelled by Congress’s failure, it is also true that the people, both in Leh and Kargil, were keen to have a young representative. And thus, BJP’s Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who is the Chief Executive Councillor, Hill Council, Leh, managed to win the election by a huge margin of over 10, 000 votes, defeating his nearest rival Sajjad Hussain, a journalist-activist-turned-politician.
The BJP’s vote share has increased to 33.94 per cent from 26.36 per cent in the 2014 parliamentary polls. The party has won three seats in Jammu and Kashmir, two from Jammu and one from Ladakh. In Ladakh, the fight was clearly between Leh and Kargil. Kargil unanimously decided to field their own candidates as they were not satisfied with the national political parties. This led to the division of votes between the two Independent candidates in Kargil and the decision went in favour of the BJP. In Zanskar, the Buddhist community openly supported the BJP and they made sure that every vote went to the BJP. They even issued a press release in favour of the BJP. The other three candidates filed written complaints to the Election Commission, but no action was seen.
The Congress party did put up a spirited fight but failed to outwit the BJP’s strategy. However, we cannot ignore the underlying structural reasons that made this victory possible and its sweep so deep and wide. There is no denying that money power was used, as it is used in every election by political parties. This is reflected in how the BJP party offered bribes to the journalists of Leh and how they were lying about the whole incident. This clearly indicates the abuse of power and threat on media’s existence and credibility.
Using money by political parties during elections is not a new thing. We have been seeing and hearing about this in every election, and it is not only the fault of political parties but people are equally to be blamed for selling their votes. We tend to blame our representatives for not fulfilling their promises, but the crucial issue is: Are we choosing the right candidate, or merely selling our votes for a few hundred rupees? Time to do soul-searching!
||Asgar Ali Karbalai