BJP creates history, wins two-third majority in Leh Council elections

*Sitting CEC, ex-MLC other prominent faces lose

Sanjeev Pargal

Winners of LAHDC Leh elections pose with victory certificates in Leh on Friday. (Another pic on page 17) — Excelsior/Stenzin
Winners of LAHDC Leh elections pose with victory certificates in Leh on Friday. (Another pic on page 17) — Excelsior/Stenzin

JAMMU, Oct 23: The BJP today created a history by securing two-thirds majority in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh elections wresting control of the Council for the first time from the Congress in 20 years winning 18 out of 26 seats trouncing the Congress, which had ruled the Council three out of four times, to only five seats. The BJP’s Alliance partner, the PDP, failed to open its account while National Conference, which had no seat in the outgoing Council, opened the account winning two seats while one Independent was also elected.
The Congress suffered major reverses when its strongman and outgoing Chief Executive Councilor (CEC) of the LAHDC Leh Rigzin Spalbar was defeated in Lower Leh. Another senior Congress leader and former MLC Norboo Gialchan was defeated in Khaltsi. Senior BJP leader Dr Sonam Dawa won from Thiksay while BJYM Leh unit president Dorjey Angchuk was defeated in Lower Leh.
Two Muslim candidates-one each from BJP and NC made it to the Council. They included Ghulam Mehdi of NC from Turtuk and Mumtaz Hussain of BJP from Chuchot.
Deputy Commissioner, Leh, Prasanna Ramaswamy, who had been appointed as Election Authority for the Council elections, declared all 26 results tonight. The BJP emerged major political force in Leh by winning two-third seats (18) on its own. Congress won 5 and NC two. An Independent also emerged victorious. In the outgoing Council, Congress had 22 and BJP four seats.
BJP and Congress had contested 25 seats each while NC and PDP had fought elections on eight seats each. Newly floated New Ladakh Movement was in the fray on 17 seats. Like PDP, the NLM, also drew a blank. NLM chief convenor Sonam Wangchuk was defeated in Khaltsi seat, where he polled only 270 votes. The NLM, which had been formed on the eve of elections, as an alternate to BJP and Congress, failed to make its presence felt with its candidates securing meager votes on all 17 seats.
The BJP would have the advantage of getting four more Councilors when strength of the Council will go up to 30 as the Government had the power to nominate four Councilors with voting rights to the Council. With PDP-BJP Government in power, they will have power to nominate four activists of their choice to the Council, taking BJP and its allies’ strength to 22 in the Council.
“The two-third plus majority in the Council will give powers to the BJP to carry out any kind of amendments in the Council laws,” sources said. The Congress, which had two-third plus majority in the previous Council, was reduced to just five seats. Congress won Nyoma seat with just one vote after recounting.
Congress victory at Nyoma ensured that there was no woman elected to the LAHDC Leh. BJP woman candidate Urgain Chosdon and Congress nominee Thubstan Wangchuk were tied after counting was completed. The fresh counting was ordered by the Election Authority after the tie in which the Congress won the seat by single vote, the lowest margin among all 26 seats.
Significantly, it was the National Conference, which albeit won only two seats, but turned out to be the giant killer as its candidate Phungchok Wangdan defeated sitting CEC LAHDC and Congress leader Rigzin Spalbar in Lower Leh by the highest margin (803 votes) for any seat. Spalbar was seeking fifth straight term to the LAHDC as he had won all previous four elections. This was his first defeat. He was the CEC for past five years.
Wangdon polled 2251 votes as against Spalbar’s 1448. BJP candidate in Lower Leh Dorjey Angchuk polled 1249 votes while NLM candidate Tundup Tsewang polled only 288 votes.
Of four sitting Executive Councilors of the Congress (who enjoyed the rank of Minister) Sonam Dorjey was defeated at Temisgam by BJP’s Tsering Morup, who polled 607 votes. Dorjay got 573 votes while NLM nominee Dorjai Namgail secured 98 votes only.
Another sitting Executive Councilor of Congress Gurmat Dorjay, however, won in Korzok by polling 341 votes as against BJP’s Chemat Dorjay, who got 137 votes. PDP candidate Dorjay Angdus secured 137 votes and NC’s Skarma Namdok took 193.
Two other Executive Councilors Dr Sonam Wangchuk, who had last time won Hunder seat and Mohammad Shaffi Lassu (nominated) didn’t contest the elections. The LAHDC can have only four Executive Councilors apart from the CEC. Former Additional SP Leh and Congress candidate Phunchok Sonam lost in Kungyam.
The BJP’s massive victory in the LAHDC Leh stung the Congress, which was trying to regain control of the Council after winning both Assembly seats-Leh and Nobra in last year’s elections. Prior to the Assembly elections, the BJP had, for the first time, won Ladakh Lok Sabha seat when Thupstan Chhewang had defeated an Independent candidate.
The BJP’s victory in Leh is being equated by the political observers with the landslide verdict the party got in Jammu and Ladakh during last year’s Parliament and Assembly elections. The BJP had won both Lok Sabha seats of Jammu and lone seat of Ladakh while in Assembly polls, the party won 26 out of 37 Assembly seats. Now, in Leh, the BJP secured 18 out of 26 seats in the LAHDC Leh.
This was the first election after the PDP-BJP former first ever Alliance Government in Jammu and Kashmir and was being considered as major test for the two parties, though they contested separately. The PDP hadn’t much stakes in Leh but stakes were high for the BJP especially after winning Lok Sabha seat and then losing both Assembly seats.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, BJP Incharge for J&K Avinash Rai Khanna, Ladakh MP Thupstan Chhewang, Cooperatives Minister Chering Dorjey, BJP organizing secretary, Ashok Koul, Party Incharge Leh elections, Sat Sharma CA, MLA, Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi, Ravinder Raina, MLA and other senior party Ministers and leaders had actively and aggressively campaigned for the BJP this time. The BJP sister organisations were also actively involved in the campaign.
In contrast to this, the Congress campaign was low key affair and several senior party leaders had resigned on the eve of polling on October 17.
The NC, whose working president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had campaigned for the party, managed to win two seats as compared to duck in the previous Council. The party won Lower Leh and Turtuk seats. However, the PDP put up disappointing performance having failed to open its account despite contesting eight seats. The PDP, however, never had any major vote bank in Leh as compared to NC, which had Nobra Assembly seat in the previous House.
Election for the new CEC LAHDC Leh was likely to take place in first week of November after entire election process is completed on October 27. The nomination of four Councilors can be done by the Government anytime after the election process is over. With two-third majority, the BJP will have smooth sailing in getting its first ever CEC elected to form the Council, which has a term of five years.
NC candidate Ghulam Mehdi won Turtuk seat polling 976 votes defeating PDP nominee Ghulam Hussain, who got 876 and Congress candidate Abdul Ali, who polled 613 votes. BJP hadn’t fielded any candidate.
Dikshit seat went to Independent Tsering Angchuk, who took 858 votes as compared to BJP candidate Stanzin Zatsal’s 774. NLM nominee Tsewang Rigzen secured 299 votes.
Hunder seat was won by the BJP candidate Kunzang Lotus, who polled 1038 votes. He defeated Congress candidate Chhewang Sandup, who polled 915 votes. PDP candidate Thukjay Rabgies got 307 and NC’s Nawang Dolker took 328 votes.
In direct contest, BJP’s Regzin Lundup emerged victorious from Tegar seat polling 877 votes and defeating Congress leader Rigzin Wangdus, who got 813 votes.
BJP also bagged Panamik seat where its candidate Tsering Sandump polled 892 votes and defeated Congress representative Chhewang Splber, who got 556 votes.
Tangtse seat went to BJP candidate Tashi Namgayal (683 votes). He defeated Congress nominee Chhemet Dorjey, who polled 396 votes.
Chushul was bagged by the BJP with a narrow margin of 39 votes in direct fight. BJP candidate Kunchok Stanzin polled 670 votes as against 631 secured by Congress nominee Namgail Punchok.
Nyoma seat was won by Congress candidate Thubstan Wangchuk with one vote defeating BJP’s female face Urgain Chosdon. Wangchuk polled 644 and Urgain 643 votes. The fate of the winner was decided in recounting as earlier both candidates were tied.
BJP candidate Dorjey Motup won Kungyam seat polling 1044 votes as against 544 of Congress leader Phunchok Sonam.
Gurmat Dorjay (Congress) won Korzok with 341 votes defeating BJP’s Chemat Dorjay and PDP’s Dorjay Angdus, both of whom secured 137 votes each. NC’s Skarma Namdok secured 193 votes.
Sakti seat went to BJP’s kitty, where party candidate Gyal Punchok Wangyal secured 1026 votes while Congress leader Dachan Dorjey could muster only 335 votes. NC leader Tsering Sangdup got only 92 votes.
Igoo was captured by BJP leader Tsering Paldan securing 857 votes as against 696 of Congress candidates Tashi Norbu.
Martsela turned out to be cakewalk for the BJP in direct contest with party leader Tsering Namgayal polling securing 1732 votes while Congress nominee Tsering Angdu polled only 907 votes.
The victory margin of BJP was also significant in Thiksay with party strongman Dr Sonam Dawa polling 1251 votes as against 565 of his Congress rival Sonam Tsepal and 248 of NC’s Punchok Tashi.
Chuchot was also won by the BJP. It’s candidate Mumtaz Hussain polled 1392 votes as against 947 of Congress leader Ghulam Syedin.
Upper Leh went to BJP candidate Lobzang Nayantak, who polled 1238 votes while Congress leader Ishey Namgayal could muster only 649 votes.
Rigzin Spalbar, the outgoing CEC LAHDC was defeated in Lower Leh polling 1448 votes by NC’s Phungchok Wangdan, who got 2251 votes.
Phyang set too went to BJP, where its candidate Punchok Dorjey polled 2342 votes while Congress nominee Tsering Gyatso got 1587 votes.
Sku-Mari, the lowest voter constituency, too opted for the BJP. Sonam Narbu of the BJP win the seat securing 207 votes while Congress candidate Tsering Puntsog polled 137 votes.
Basgo, the home segment of three times Congress MLA from Leh and former Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, once again opted for Congress. Congress candidate Tsering Norboo emerged victorious polling 1216 votes as against BJP nominee Sonam Murup’s 888.
Saspol seat went to BJP candidate Tsering Wangdus, who polled 719 votes. He defeated Congress nominee Rinchan Wangail, who got 479 votes.
Temisgam went to BJP candidate Tsering Morup with 607 votes as compared to 573 votes of Congress leader Sonam Dorjay.
Khaltsi too opted for BJP. Party candidate Lobzang Shear won with 434 votes as Congress candidate Norboo Gialchan, former MLC, polled only 307 votes. NLM chief convenor Sonam Wangchuk finished poor third with 270 votes only.
Skurbuchan went to BJP’s Punchok Stanzin, who polled 1080 votes and defeated Congress nominee Stanzin Norfel, who got 773 votes.
Lamayouru seat went to Congress candidate Morup Dorjey with 35 votes only. Dorjey polled 620 votes and BJP;s Tsewang Gonbo got 585 votes.
Lingshed was also won by Congress in direct fight with PDP. Sonam Dorje of Congress got 1028 votes while PDP candidate Tashi Dorjai secured 583 votes. BJP hadn’t fielded any candidate on this seat.