69.62 pc votes cast in first election of Ladakh as UT, Kargil records 9 pc more voting than Leh

Female voters showing mark of indelible ink after casting their votes in Skara Yokma, Leh on Monday.
Female voters showing mark of indelible ink after casting their votes in Skara Yokma, Leh on Monday.

Constant fall witnessed in polling percentage since 2004

RO says FIR registered in graffiti outside Polling Stn

EVMs from far-off areas to start reaching from today

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 20: First Parliamentary election in the Union Territory of Ladakh went off peacefully with 69.62 percent of 1.84 lakh electorates exercising their right to franchise for lone Parliamentary seat, nearly two percent down than 2019 when the turnout stood at 71.5
Kargil district dominated by Shia Muslims which had nearly 7000 more votes than Buddhist majority Leh district, also excelled in voting with 74 percent turnout as compared to 64.9 percent in Leh district.

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Ladakh Lok Sabha seat won by the BJP for last two consecutive terms of 2014 and 2019 comprised only two districts of Leh and Kargil and witnessed triangular contest among Tashi Gyalson (BJP), Tsering Namgyal (Congress) and Mohammad Haneefa Jan (Independent) backed by National Conference and Congress units of district Kargil.

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Their fate was locked in the EVMs which will be brought to Leh but it will take time keeping in view many far off Polling Stations. However, strong rooms have also been made at local levels before the EVMs are shifted to Leh, the officials said.
The Election officials said voting percentage stood at 69.62 including 74 percent in Kargil and 64.9 in Leh.
Voting percentage has constantly been on decline in Ladakh constituency which was earlier part of Jammu and Kashmir and, for the first time, today saw the Lok Sabha voting after becoming the Union Territory on August 5, 2019.
Turnout in Ladakh was 73.52 percent in 2004 which came down to 72.8 percent in 2009, 71.40 percent in 2014, 71.5 percent in 2019 and 69.62 percent in 2024.
Briefing media persons in Leh after the voting concluded, Returning Officer for Ladakh Parliamentary constituency and Deputy Commissioner Leh Santosh Sukhdeve and SP Leh Shruti Arora said the polling was peaceful.
Replying to a question on a graffiti outside wall of a Polling Station in Housing Colony, Leh, Sukhdeve said an FIR has been registered and CCTV footage will be examined to take action. The graffiti was detected around 1 PM.
As per the locals, the graffiti was provocative targeting the BJP.
On violation of Model Code of Conduct, Sukhdeve said no violations were reported like rallies etc after the deadline but if anyone has violated the MCC on Social Media it will be looked into.
He said there were five votes at Warshi Polling Station and along with them, polling staff also exercised their right to franchise there.
With pleasant weather in the entire Union Territory of Ladakh, long queues of voters including women and first-time electorates (both boys and girls) were seen outside polling stations in Leh and Kargil towns, surrounding areas as well as Nubra and Zanskar.
Polling Stations set up in higher altitude areas including Hanle Phu, the second highest Polling Station in the world at the height of nearly 15,800 feet from sea level saw impressive turnout.
Though the Election Commission had deployed paramilitary forces in Ladakh and all Polling Stations including 298 in Leh and 279 in Kargil had adequate number of paramilitary and police personnel, the voting passed off peacefully with no untoward incident reported from any part of the Parliamentary constituency. Polling parties, security personnel and EVMs will be brought back by air from five polling stations including two in Leh and three in Kargil district tomorrow.
Counting will be held on June 4.
Spread over an area of over 59,000 square kilometres — around 40 times the size of Delhi — Ladakh is the largest Parliamentary constituency in India in terms of area and covers the two districts of Leh and Kargil.
Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh Brig (Dr) BD Mishra (Retd) and his wife Neelam Mishra were among those who cast their votes at Skara Yokma in Leh.
“Voting is the festival of democracy. I am happy that we are celebrating it like that. Free and fair voting is an important step of democracy. I want Ladakh to always grow and our youth to get every good opportunity,” Mishra told reporters in Leh after voting.
BJP candidate Tashi Gyalson, who is sitting Chairman-cum-CEC of Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council and his Congress opponent Tsering Namgyal, who is Leader of Opposition (LOP) in the Council exercised their right to franchise in Leh while third candidate in the fray Mohammad Haneefa Jan (Independent), who has also served as Chairman-cum-CEC of Kargil Hill Development Council, cast his vote in Kargil.
Well-known climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who was in the news recently for leading a 66-day sit-in protest in Leh over demands such as safeguards under the 6th Schedule for Ladakh and Statehood, cast his vote in Leh’s Ulyaktopo village.
“I have just voted and I am happy. I am also feeling sad because many people don’t exercise their right to vote. Many leaders sacrificed a lot for this country. People should celebrate the festival of democracy,” Wangchuk said.
Ladakh Chief Electoral Officer Yetindra M Maralkar earlier in the day said they are expecting up to 75 per cent voting by the end of the day.
“We are witnessing enthusiasm among the voters and I think, polling percentage will also improve this time. It may go up to 75 per cent by the end of the day,” Maralkar said.
At least 10 ‘Model Booths’ were set up here with traditional seating arrangements and local refreshments while election promotion music was played.
The Congress has won the seat for the highest number of times — six — and had fielded Tsering Namgyal, the Leader of Opposition in the LAHDC, according to an agreement with the NC, as they were members of the INDIA bloc. However, National Conference and Congress units of the Kargil district revolted against the decisions of their respective parties and fielded Haneefa Jan, who was district president of the NC, as an Independent candidate.
The two districts, which came together over demands including 6th Schedule of the Constitution and Statehood, appeared divided over the polls with expectations of voting taking place on regional lines. Congress and BJP candidates belonged to Buddhist majority Leh district where the votes are expected to split between the two while Jan is lone candidate in Shia Muslims dominated Kargil.
BJP won Ladakh seat for last two consecutive terms in 2014 and 2019. BJP’s Thupstan Chhewang won the seat in 2014 while Jamyang Tsering Namgayal retained it in 2019. However, both the times, there were two candidates each from Leh and Kargil districts but this time there was only one candidate in Kargil.
Of the total 1.84 lakh voters in Ladakh, 95,926 were in the Kargil district and 88,877 in Leh. There were 298 Polling Stations in Leh and 279 booths in Kargil. In both the districts, Election authorities had established Model and Pink Polling Stations.
This was the first major electoral battle in the region after it was carved out of Jammu and Kashmir and granted Union territory status in 2019 though elections to the Hill Councils were held in both Leh and Kargil districts. While the BJP got absolute majority in the Leh Council for second consecutive time, the National Conference-Congress alliance got huge mandate in the Kargil Council.