Today: Jun 19, 2024

Demand for statehood, Sixth Schedule in focus: Ladakh Independent candidate

3 mins read

Kargil:  Amid a three-cornered fight in Ladakh, Independent candidate Mohammad Haneefa Jan said his focus remains on the demands such as safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and statehood raised with the Union government.

Haneefa, who was a National Conference (NC) leader till recently, quit the party along with the entire Kargil unit to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Ladakh. While he belongs to Kargil, INDIA bloc’s Tsering Namgyal and BJP’s Tashi Gyalson are from Leh.

It is believed that being the lone candidate from Kargil gives Haneefa an edge over the other two candidates.

Of the around 1,84,000 voters in Ladakh, Kargil has around 95,000 voters while Leh has around 89,000 voters, according to the local officials. With votes from Leh likely to split between Congress’s Namgyal and BJP’s Tashi Gyalson, Haneefa seems to have an advantage.

Haneefa told PTI that he is getting support from all social and religious groups in Kargil. His team is also campaigning in the Leh district with a four-point demand in focus.

The Ladakh seat was given to the Congress under the seat-sharing arrangement of the INDIA bloc. Namgyal, the leader of opposition in the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, was announced as their candidate.

The entire unit of the NC in Kargil resigned citing pressure to support the Congress candidate. The local unit of the Congress is also backing Haneefa.

“We were hoping that the Congress will give a chance to a candidate from Kargil this time. We had decided that we would give a candidate from the NC.

“I had already been announced as the candidate. Unfortunately, the decision went in favour of Leh,” Haneefa told PTI in an interview.

He said under the seat-sharing deal of the INDIA bloc, the Ladakh seat was given to the Congress. The NC’s Kargil unit was under pressure to support the Congress candidate.

“We said the whole Kargil is united. The whole NC’s Kargil unit resigned,” he said.

Haneefa said supporting the opposition bloc candidate from Leh could have worked in favour of the BJP.

“It was not possible to support the Leh candidate at the ground level. That would have meant the BJP’s victory or the emergence of some other independent candidate,” he said.

At his rallies in Kargil, ‘ittehad’ or unity is the key word, as all social, political and religious groups are backing him under the banner of Ladakh Democratic Alliance (LDA).

For Haneefa, the focus remains on the four demands being raised by the Ladakhis — safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, statehood, job reservations and a separate public service commission. Two separate Lok Sabha seats for Kargil and Leh are also on his agenda.

He said the Union Territory status for Ladakh was originally the demand of the people from Leh. The people of Kargil wanted to remain with Jammu and Kashmir. But in today’s scenario, the people of Kargil are also on the same page over the demands.

“This is the first time in history that Kargil and Leh are unitedly fighting over something. We have staged protests in Leh, Kargil, Jammu and at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Unfortunately, in the last five years, the elected MP did not raise the issues of Ladakh.

Haneefa was referring to Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, the outgoing Ladakh MP, who was replaced with Gyalson as the BJP candidate from the constituency in these Lok Sabha elections.

“Maybe he was under some pressure from his party. He became a representative of the party and not of the people of Ladakh. He kept trying to please his party leaders by talking about Kashmir and not about the people of Ladakh,” Haneefa said.

“Had he (Jamyang Tsering Namgyal) been a representative of Ladakh, he would have acted as a bridge between the government and the people. Maybe our message could have reached the leadership,” he said.

Haneefa claimed that despite the regional divide, all communities in Kargil are supporting him. His team is also campaigning in Leh, where the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), a prominent religious body, has said the focus remains on their demands for safeguards and democracy.

“Earlier the divide was on a regional and religious basis. But today, Buddhist, Christians and Sikhs, all are together. We are united over the issue of Ladakh.

“The LBA president also said we will support the candidates who are secular and talk about the interests of Ladakh. That is why we are able to campaign openly in Leh as well. Many Buddhist brothers called me and welcomed that I was fighting elections on the four demands,” he said.

Haneefa stressed that implementation of both statehood and Sixth Schedule are extremely important here in order to protect the local culture, identity, as well as interests of people, especially when it comes to employment.

“Ladakh has a very huge area but a very low population. If a large number of outsiders come here, we will be finished,” he said.

Ladakh, which holds the distinction of being India’s largest constituency in terms of area, will go to polls on May 20. This is the first time Lok Sabha elections are being held here since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which paved the way for the creation of Ladakh as a Union Territory but without legislature.