JK Bank

Indian general elections are taking the nerve of more than 1.25 billion people around the country. Being held in 7 phases, while parliamentary elections look like a lifetime, the phase-5 is about to reach the scenic Ladakh constituency (one of the six parliamentary seats in Jammu and Kashmir), and it looks intriguing on the ground; credits to two young faces—Sajjad Hussain Kargili from Kargil, and Jamayang Tsering Namgyal from Leh.

From the adequate successful mass movement aimed to get an equal share for Kargil, one of the four assembly segments in Ladakh division, a wave of belief made rounds in Kargil that people should unite, and nominate a single independent candidate to represent the rights of Kargil.

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Although, after a round of failed negotiations between different stakeholders, including political organizations and major religious organizations, the unity broke and a single candidate couldn’t be nominated from Kargil.

Sajjad Hussain Kargili, a social-activist backed by National Conference (NC), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and other social organizations including Anjuman-e-Jami’atul ulama Kargil (Islamia school, Kargil) is being fielded as an independent candidate, while Imam Khomeini memorial trust (IKMT), backed by Anjuman Sufia Noor Bakshia and Anjuman-e-Behboodi Saadat fielded Asgar Karbalai as another independent candidate.

With an estimate of 1.6 Lac electors for the seat, two young faces stirred the political scenario, with Rigzin Spalbar from Indian National Congress (INC), and a new face for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, after Thupstan Tsewang, earlier Member of Parliament’s controversial promotion as CEC Leh in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

The Kashmir Walla went around in Ladakh division to present a blueprint of tactics and players in upcoming Lok Sabha Elections.

Responding to IKMT’s separate independent candidate, the president of ISK, Hujatul Islam Sheikh Nazir Ul Mehdi said, “They didn’t agree to withdraw Karbalai’s candidature, leading to rejection of Kargil’s majority verdict. We had social responsibilities considering the prestige of Kargil.” He believes that the three major parties: Congress, NC, and PDP were firm on their stance.

As per Mr. Mehdi, the unwillingness of IKMT to nominate any other name than Mr. Karbalai led to the bifurcation of the people’s wishes. Moreover, he added, Mr. Kargili’s name came ahead after every stakeholder agreed. “His (Sajjad’s) contribution towards the society as a civil right activist and journalist, his love and passion for the wellbeing of Kargil, are the merits that led to his name,” said Mr. Mehdi

Although, the chairman of IKMT, Hujjat-ul-Islam Sheikh Mohamed Sadiq Rajae, said, “Karbalai’s political maturity and efficiency were the criteria in considerations, while Kargili’s nomination was a pre-planned event, and we had no freedom in choosing.” For Mr. Rajae, agreeing on Mr. Kargili’s name was like buying a pre-hatched conspiracy.

“The candidate they choose wasn’t qualified,” said Mr. Rajae, while backing the candidature of Mr. Karbalai, he said, “We believe a more mature, and an experienced statesman should be sent to the parliament.”

Unlike Kargil, the religious organizations in Leh stayed away from any political involvement. President of Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), Nawang Thinles stated that they won’t be supporting any party in this upcoming elections. Adding to it, Mr. Thinles agreed that many political leaders have worked under LBA, “We have prepared them, but their political ambitions are away from the paradigms of LBA.”

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Ladakh had 166,763 registered electors voters; 86,259 of them were male while 80,504 female had their name in the voting list. Ladakh parliamentary seat saw 70.78% voter turnout in last general elections, with 67.28% male while 74.52% female voters turned out for voting.

BJP’s Namgyal

Amid new shifts, Mr. Namgyal of BJP is under the parlance of favoritism. Talking to The Kashmir Walla, he demanded proof for all allegations, including being an ‘RSS person’ (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization). “I struggled, worked for my people and I’m fortunate to fight this election,” said Mr. Namgyal. “I started as a small worker, then a youth leader; my hard work and leadership quality attracted the attention of seniors, not favoritism.”

Talking about agenda in upcoming elections, he added that he wants to pursue a new political system with clean intention. Refusing any electoral competition in the region, he said, “My challenge is to implement my vision to work on issues including education, health, tourism, employment, climate change, and global warming.”

Disagreeing with the idea to mingle politics and religion, BJP candidate exerted his belief that Mr. Karbalai is nothing but a dummy candidate of INC. As per him, despite INC’s candidate Mr. Spalbar fighting the upcoming elections, Kargil’s Congress active councilor, president and workers are campaigning for Mr. Karbalai. “Either Karbalai is fooling the public, or is making a fool of himself.”

For a shift in the reverberating tone of BJP, Mr. Namgyal asserted that they will be coining development in the agenda and not the popularity of their veteran politician, Thupstan Tsewang.

Congress’s Spalbar

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Rigzin Spalbar of Congress. Photo Credit: Spalbar/Twitter

INC’s Mr. Spalbar, a 4-decade-old leader in Ladakh, affirms that the elections will be contested in a democratic spirit. “My first objective is to demolish the polarization in Ladakh, where one community is projected against second during elections,” said Mr. Spalbar. “As a parliamentarian, I can bridge this gap. There are good people in both districts and this issue can be solved any time.”

Fighting in the ground on the same front as other, INC will be projecting issues like betterment of connectivity, education, and many more. “However, I will work for the sustainable development of Ladakh,” said Mr. Spalbar. “How long are we going to beg? I feel we must have a 50-year vision for both the districts.”

As per Mr. Spalbar, INC is determined to thrash out the sectarian designs of RSS in Ladakh. “It needs to be done. Otherwise, it will rot Ladakhi fabric,” he added.

Talking about Mr. Karbalai’s decision to contest as an independent candidate, Mr. Spalbar stated everyone’s democratic right to contest, “But, Karbalai Sahib is trying to weaken INC, and sooner or later he will realize this,” said Mr. Spalbar.

Kargili’s quest

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Sajjad Hussain Kargili. Photo Credit: Karamjeet Singh

“I could have withdrawn my name for the sake of unity definitely. Congress broke the unity,” said independent candidate, Mr. Kargili. He added that the earlier representatives of parties like NC in Leh were expelled for revolting against the party, and questions that why did INC not do any action against Mr. Karbalai: “It is simple he is a dummy candidate,” said Mr. Kargili.

As per him, INC fielded Mr. Spalbar in Leh while a proxy candidate in Kargil. “Karbalai should have given a thought about the people of Kargil, who elected him as a CEC in LAHDC two times and as an MLA one time,” said Mr. Kargili. For him, legitimately or illegitimately, Karbalai is strengthening BJP in Ladakh.

Citing his activism in Delhi, north-east India, and J-K as well, Mr. Kargili believes he earned his name. As per him, his main focus would be on issues like connectivity, education, and unity of the Ladakh region. “I will write my manifesto when I would know what the people of Ladakh want,” he said.

A senior journalist and editor of Reach Ladakh bulletin from Leh, Rinchen Angmo Chumikchan, believes that there will be a tight competition in Ladakh. “Nothing can be predicted as of now the situations in both districts are very tough and no one can be declared as a winner.”

Murtaza Fazily is a freelance journalist.