‘Scenic’ Ladakh is India’s smallest constituency — and it has a mind boggling number of issues

Welcome to Ladakh sign board by the Border Road OrganisationWikimedia

  • Ladakh, India’s smallest parliamentary constituency, has a surprising amount of issues.
  • The constituency, itself, is divided into two districts — Leh and Kargil where there is a Muslim-Buddhist divide.
  • Despite the duality, the constituency is a running up to be a four day contest as Ladakh goes to vote today.
  • During the general election 2014, Ladakh had the highest voter turnout in all of Jammu and Kashmir.
For the smallest constituency in India — in terms of its population — ‘scenic’ Ladakh has a surprising amount of issues.

It’s also one of the parts of Jammu and Kashmir that hasn’t faced any separatist movements, despite the violence that continues to harass the neighbouring Kashmir valley. For four months every year, Ladakh is cut off from the rest of the state as the Zojilla Pass, connecting Srinagar with Leh, fills with snow.

And, unlike the rest of the Valley and Jammu — Ladakh has its own set of issues.

First off, the constituency is divided into two districts — a Buddhist-dominated Leh and a Muslim majority Kargil.

Whenever Parliament elections are held in Ladakh, the region gets divided between Leh and Kargil, between the Buddhists and the Muslims. My first and foremost commitment is to end this divide which is traditionally created by vested interests.

Rigzin Spalbar

And, there’s a four way battle in works in between the Rigzin Spalbar from Congress, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) candidate Sajjad Hussain, Congress ‘rebel’ Asgar Ali Karbalai and BJP’s Tsering Namgyal in Ladakh.

Candidate NamePartySymbol
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal54, 10th pass, Chairman LAHDC LehBharatiya Janata Party (BJP)Lotus
Rigzin Spalbar61, Graduate, HotelierIndian National Congress (INC)Hand
Asgar Ali Karbalai54, 10th pass, Social WorkerIndependentCup and Saucer
Sajjad Hussain37, Post Graduate, Reporter on Sahara TVIndependentBattery Torch

Ladakh is generally a Congress strong hold, but BJP candidate, Thupstan Chhewang, won the general election 2014, even though it was only by a mere 36 votes.

But, he vacated his seat last year — quitting both the BJP and the parliament — citing unfulfilled promises by the party to the people of the constituency, one of which getting the local Bhoti language included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India.

While that may seem to dim BJP’s chances in the state, findings of the region’s solar power being exploited and establishment of the Kashmir University work in its favour.

For voters in the area, while Article 370 and 35A — giving the state of Jammu and Kashmir special status — are still a primary issue, they are also looking address developmental issues like better connectivity by road and air.

We want inclusion of our Bhoti language in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution. We want the opening of Kalash Mansarovar Yatra route from Ladakh to Denjok. We demand Zojila tunnel and also opening of Pahalgam-Sanjoy route.

Namgyal

Hussain, the Kargil candidate, stated, “I am the unity candidate of Kargil. My priorities are connectivity, education, health sector and others,” while explaining why the constituency needs a medical college, a University and more tunnels.

Even though there may be an opinion that the central government forgets about region after the polls — the general election 2014 still saw a voter turnout of 70.78%, which was the highest of any constituency in Jammu and Kashmir.

Polling stations are set up in areas like Washi in Nubra and Gaik in Leh where only 7 voters are registered. Even 15,000 feet above sea level, a polling booth can be found at Anlay in the Chantang area.

There are a total of 559 polling stations in the constituency will 174,618 voters — 86,752 male, 85,064 female and 3 third gender — eligible to cast their ballot.

The Ladakh constituency in Jammu and Kashmir may be the smallest state in terms of its population, but geographically, it’s the largest constituency in India.

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