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LS POLLS-2024 | Campaigning ends for Ladakh UT’s lone parliamentary seat

Polling parties dispatched to remote polling stations: Officials
01:40 AM May 19, 2024 IST | Irfan Raina
ls polls 2024   campaigning ends for ladakh ut’s lone parliamentary seat
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Kargil, May 18: The campaigning for the fifth phase of the parliamentary polls ended on Saturday, which also includes the elections for the lone Ladakh parliamentary constituency that is going to polls on May 20.

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Ladakh Union Territory has a total of 1,84,803 registered voters who will cast their ballots on May 20 across 598 polling stations.

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The Leh district accounts for 88,877 voters while the Kargil district has 95,926 eligible voters.

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During the election campaigning over a couple of weeks, candidates and leaders from different political parties pulled all the stops to ensure they were able to catch the voters’ attention.

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However, surprisingly top leaders who were star campaigners of various political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and National Conference (NC) gave this campaigning in Ladakh a miss.

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However, a few central leaders from BJP including the party’s national General Secretary Tarun Chugh and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju visited Leh for a brief period during campaigning.

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There are three candidates in the fray for the Ladakh parliamentary seat including BJP’s Tashi Gyalson, Congress’ Tsering Namgyal, and independent candidate Hanifa Jan.

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In a significant political development, the Congress and NC party units in Kargil rebelled against their parties and fielded Haneefa Jan as an independent candidate supported by the Ladakh Democratic Alliance, an amalgam of political, social, religious, and trade organisations.

On the other hand, BJP would go alone in the elections with Gyalson as its candidate dropping sitting MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal while the Congress led INDIA bloc has officially fielded its candidate Tsering Namgyal.

The voting for the 01-Ladakh Parliamentary Constituency is scheduled to take place during the fifth phase of the polls on May 20.

Ladakh holds the distinction of being India’s largest constituency in terms of area.

Strategically it shares borders with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC) and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The Ladakh Lok Sabha seat is spread over Leh and Kargil districts.

It has a total number of 1,84,803 electors of which 95,926 are in Kargil district and 88,877 in Leh district.

This is the first time parliamentary polls are being held here since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which paved the way for the creation of Ladakh as a Union Territory but without legislature.

Political observers believe that the contest for the Ladakh seat will be a closely followed considering the election is taking place at a time when the people of the region are agitating for constitutional safeguards, especially the Sixth Schedule, to protect the region's unique identity, land, jobs, and fragile environment besides statehood for Ladakh and employment opportunities for youth.

Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who earlier led the protest, observed a 21-day fast to press for the demand for constitutional safeguards for Ladakh.

The people of Ladakh have been holding protests for a long time now and demanding safeguards under the Sixth Schedule, separate parliament seats for Leh and Kargil, Public Services Commission for Ladakh, and employment opportunities for youth.

Locals said that the issue of statehood and the Sixth Schedule were close to the hearts of Ladakhis.

“It is not just our demand. It is a popular sentiment and aspiration of the people of Ladakh,” they said.

Meanwhile, the authorities have made all the arrangements for the elections to the Ladakh parliamentary seat.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) and the election authority in Ladakh have made all the required arrangements for smooth and fair elections.

Ahead of the polling, the administration has dispatched the polling staff to remote polling stations in Ladakh.

On Saturday, the polling parties for all 44 polling stations in the Zanskar sub-division were flagged off by the District Election Officer (DEO), Kargil, Shrikant Suse and dispatched from Khree Sultan Chow Sports Stadium Kargil.

SSP Kargil, Deputy District Election Officer Kargil, and Nodal Officers besides other concerned officers were also present on the occasion.

The DEO said that the polling parties for the far flung areas of the district including Phema which is located at 14100 feet, Ralakun 13800 feet, and Shadey 14500 feet were dispatched on Friday through IAF helicopters.

The DEO while flagging off the polling parties exhorted them to perform their assigned responsibilities with utmost sincerity and dedication and strictly adhere to the ECI guidelines to ensure a free, fair, transparent, and ethical election process in the district.

Expressing satisfaction with the overall preparedness, he said that all necessary arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the elections are conducted smoothly.

He said that, according to the ECI norms, the use of mobile phones by voters within a 100-meter radius of the polling booth is completely banned.

The DEO said May 20 is the festival of democracy and urged the people to participate enthusiastically in the voting process and cast their votes without fear.

Similarly, under the supervision of the District Election Officer, EVMs, voting materials, and polling staff were dispatched from the warehouse to Shun and Ichu remote polling stations in the presence of the Assistant Returning Officer, Kargil.

NT Election, Kargil, representatives of political parties and independent candidates and other concerned officers and officials were present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, the authorities have imposed Section 144 CrPC in Leh district for the smooth conduct of the elections.

"Violation of this order will invite punitive action under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These restrictions will not apply to the officers on polling duty. The order will remain in force till May 21, 2024,” District Magistrate Leh said in the order.

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