join common front for UT status
Newly constituted Ladakh Union Territory
Front gets shot in the arm
While electioneering is yet to pick up momentum in the border
state of Jammu and Kashmir which would witness a four-phased elections
starting from 16 September, a very interesting political development in
far flung land-locked mountainous area of Ladakh seems not only having
sprung up surprises for almost all the political parties but have also
threatened their political existence in Buddhist-dominated region.
Shunning their political differences, almost all the political parties
and other organizations in Ladakh which wield a tremendous influence on
the Ladakhi people in that region, have joined hands together and formed
a common Front by the name Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) with the
objective to strive for a union territory status for the region.
The Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) came into existence on 25 August
late last month when all the political parties of the Ladakh region, including
National Conference, Congress and the BJP, dissolved their local units
to form the Front to fight for Union Territory status for the region. A
statement signed by the LBA president Tsering Samphal the day the Front
was constituted read that “the heads of the local units have unanimously
resolved to form the regional organisation and disband all political parties
from functioning in Ladakh.” The statement was endorsed by the National
Conference president for Leh Tsering Narbo lampa, BJP president Sonam Rinchan
and Chairman Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Thupstan Chewang
and all councillors of LAHDC. The statement said that the regional party
being floated shall work for the sole aim of achieving Union Territory
status for Ladakh.
What has been threatening major political parties in the fact that most
of their Ladakhi legislators and the leaders who wield some influence in
the area or who were to be fielded as contesting candidates for the forthcoming
polls in Ladakh region by their parties, have either joined the Front by
resigning from their parties or are in the process of joining the Front
which seem to have assumed much importance in within few days of its formation.
Backed fully by Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), a powerful organization
of Ladakhi Buddhists which had agitated hard for getting Ladakh Autonomous
Hill Development Council (LAHDC) status and had ultimately earned it for
Leh during Governor’s rule, (which was given concurrence by the state assembly
in 1996), the Front has also the support of other important Buddhists
leaders like Tsering Samphel , LAHDC executive councilor Thupstan Chewang
Ladakhis have a very strong feeling that the region has suffered much
on the hands of ruling National Conference and it is the high time to it
accord a UT status. Besides, there is also a common feeling that LAHDC
has not been able to do much on its own as the NC has kept its string in
its own hands. Ladakh, they believe, should be given the Union Territory
status to ensure its development and earn parity with Jammu and Kashmir
in all spheres of life. Overall, the Ladakh region as a whole has been
very hostile to Kashmir rule. A sense of deprivation and alienation has
long plagued the relations between Kashmir and Ladakh, especially, the
In 1998 parliamentary elections, NC candidate Syed Hussian had defeated
the Congress rival Phunsog Namgyal by 30,000 votes. The NC repeated the
performance in 1999 by elections.The ruling National Conference fears that
the closing of ranks at the time of elections by Bhuddists leaders
definitely has the blessings of powers in Jammu and Delhi to corner the
NC . For those seeking the trifurcation of the state on regional and communal
lines the move is a shot in the arm.The development has far reaching ramifications
for all political parties,particularly, NC which is under tremendous pressure
to repeat it’s performance of 1996.
Of the four seats assembly seats in 1996 polls, the National Conference
bagged three from Leh, Nobra and Kargil while the Zanskar seat went
Interestingly, the former minister P Namgyal of Congress and some of
the party’s office bearers have joined LUTF besides a Rajya Sabha Member
and two other National Conference leaders in Ladakh region . Rajya Sabha
M P Koshak Thiksey and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council members
Rigzin Namgayal and Tizing Thiksey resigned from National Conference to
join the Ladakh Front.
Not only this, but the National Conference minister of State for
Agriculture and Horticulture Tsetan Namgyal also resigned from the party
a couple of days ago and joined the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF).
Mr Namgyal was elected from the Nubra Assembly constituency in Ladakh in
the 1996 Assembly elections on the National Conference (NC) ticket by defeating
his nearest Congress rival Satnzin Tundup by a margin of 83 votes.
Omar Abdullah and the Kargil MLA, Qmar Ali Akhoon, air dashed to Leh
to persuade the party leaders against resigning from the party. Though
the NC leaders have submitted resignation to the party high command, the
same has not been accepted as yet .Hectic lobbying and persuasion is on
to win back Namgyal.
Tsering Samphal, president of the LBA, which is instrumental in forming
the LUTF campaigning for UT status to Ladakh, told The Statesman that Congress
and other members of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC)
had also resigned en masse from their posts and joined the LUTF to unitedly
fight for ensuring the Union Territory status to Ladakh. “If we will
not be given the UT status, this entire northern boundary would go,”warned
Samphel adding there was lack of concern among all political outfits towards
Ladakh and so the LBA spearheaded a move to unite various political activists
and form a common front to concentrate on ensuring the Union Territory
status to Ladakh which could only be achieved if everybody pitched in their
In yet another interesting development, the Leh-based Ladakh Muslim
Coordination Committee has supported the majority opinion of offering support
to the Front with the motive of preventing "unnecessary divide of Ladakhis"
and has decided not to field any candidate against the candidature of the
Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF).
The National Conference is also facing stiff opposition in Kargil district
from local Muslims, who are supporting an independent candidate this time.
Two organisations, the Imam Khomeini Trust and the Islamia School, have
opposed its nominee, Qamar Ali Akhoon, though Ghulam Hassan Khan of the
National Conference represents Kargil in Parliament. Considered as the
National Conference bastions till now, NC seems to have a bleak future
inthese two assembly constituencies in Kargil also which is a part of Ladakh.
With the support of Muslims to LUTF, the speculations are ripe that Leh
constituency will go for uncontested polling.
The newly constituted Front also received a shot in the arm when one
of its contesting candidate Sonam Wanchok Narboo, popularly known as Pintoo
Narboo virtually emerged as the first winner in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly
elections after he remained the only candidate from the Nobra constituency
after the expiry of the deadline for filing nominations late last evening.
With this uncontested win for the Ladakh Front nominee, the ruling National
Conference got its first jolt in Ladakh where the Ladakh Union Territory
Front (LUTF) constituted by various political parties by dissolving their
difference and fighting for the cause of Union Territory status for the
entire regions has already been giving sleepless nights to the ruling party.
Narboo was the lone candidate to enter the fray from Nobra constituency
of Leh district of frontier region of Ladakh on the last day of nominations
for the first phase of the poll. Nobra along with 25 other Assembly constituencies
spread over six districts of the State is going to polls on 16 September
16. Narboo, however would be declared elected if his papers are found to
be in order on scrutiny by the Election Commission which is to take place
on 1 September. Thus, he would also become the first person to be elected
unopposed to the new legislative assembly.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP has said the formation
of the Ladakh Union Territory Front should serve as a warning to all national
political parties that people of the region would no longer tolerate discrimination.
“Continuous discrimination against the Ladakh region by successive state
governments had generated resentment among the Ladakhis who were now clamouring
for development and parity with Jammu and Kashmir regions,” said the state
BJP general secretary Dr Nirmal Singh.