As in the last assembly poll in 2002, this time too, only one issue matters in Ladakh which goes to polls on Monday. Ladakhis want union territory status -- complete separation from the bloodshed and convoluted politics of Jammu and Kashmir.
This vast, mountainous stretch in the eastern part of the state is so thinly populated that it contributes only two seats – Leh and Nubra – to the 87-member J&K assembly. Set apart by distinctive Buddhist culture, it wants nothing to do with the disturbances in the rest of the state. The main fight in both seats will be between independents supported by the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUFT), which seeks a separate Ladakh, and the Congress.
But the matter is not that simple. The Congress too has never openly opposed Ladakh’s UT status. On the contrary both its nominees, Nawang Rinzin Jora from Leh and Tsewang Rigzin from Nubra, are sitting MLAs who were elected unopposed in 2002 on the solitary plank of making Ladakh the eighth union territory in the country. They joined the Congress only later, Jora to become minister in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government. They still want UT status for Ladakh, but realize it will not come in a hurry.
“Leh has witnessed enormous economic development lately, the credit for which must go to the Congress,” said Jora. “We still want UT status but we know it can’t come about till the Kashmir issue is resolved.”
But with Thupstan Chewang, presently independent MP from Ladakh, having chosen to contest against him with LUTF support, Jora has his task cut out for him.