Ladakh Election: Independent candidate Haneefa Jaan elected as new MP amid call for changes Promises to address key demands

By Stanzin Dasal Leh, Jun 19, 2024
Leh :

In a landmark electoral outcome, Mohamad Haneefa Jaan, an Independent candidate from Kargil district, has secured victory in the Ladakh Parliamentary seat. Garnering a total of 65,259 votes, Haneefa Jaan's win was declared on June 4, marking a significant shift in the region's political landscape. He triumphed with a substantial margin of 27,862 votes over his closest competitor, Tsering Namgyal of the Indian National Congress (INC), who received 37,397 votes. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Tashi Gyalson, finished third with 31,956 votes, while 912 votes were cast for NOTA (None of the Above).

The victory of Independent candidate Haneefa Jaan was anticipated given the presence of one Independent candidate from Kargil and candidates from BJP and Congress. The election for the lone MP seat in Ladakh is often viewed through the lens of the Leh vs. Kargil and Buddhist vs. Muslim divide. This time, the 2024 parliamentary election held special significance for the people of Ladakh after being granted Union Territory status, with four primary demands still unmet: full-fledged statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safeguards under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, an early recruitment process and Public Service Commission (PSC) for Ladakh, and separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts. These demands reflect the aspirations of a region seeking greater autonomy and representation.

Voters, holding onto their hopes and expectations, elected a new Member of Parliament to advance these demands, as the former MP, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, failed to meet the promises and expectations of the people. With Ladakh at a critical juncture, all eyes are on the new MP. Will he be able to fulfill the aspirations of the people of Ladakh?

Commitment to change

In his post-victory statement, Haneefa Jaan assured the public that he would focus on these critical issues. He emphasized his commitment to the agenda set forth by the Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA). His election symbolizes a desire for new leadership that is attuned to the region’s unique needs and challenges.

"I am honored by the trust placed in me by the people of Ladakh. My primary focus will be on addressing the key demands that have been long overdue. Together, we will work towards achieving full statehood, securing constitutional safeguards, and ensuring fair recruitment processes," Haneefa Jaan stated.

A Shift in Political Landscape

The BJP, which had held the Ladakh parliamentary seat for the past decade, faced a significant setback. Despite a campaign that emphasized infrastructural developments, the party finished third. Internal divisions over the mandate to fight election and unfulfilled promises from past elections contributed to their poor performance. Dorjay Angchuk, BJP’s election in-charge, expressed disappointment, attributing the loss to a "negative narrative" propagated by opposition parties.

“The Ladakh parliamentary seat has been held by a BJP MP for the past ten years, so we had hoped to continue for a third term, but it didn’t happen. This time, it seems the election was not based on development but on a negative narrative pushed by Congress and others, which is very unfortunate,” Angchuk remarked.

The Indian National Congress (INC), despite losing grip on the national stage, showed strong performance in Ladakh by securing 37,397 votes.

Tundup Nurboo, Chief Agent of INC, said, “First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Haji Hanifa Jaan on his decisive election victory. I also want to thank all the workers of the Congress party and congratulate the entire party for our significant improvement compared to the last election. The difference of 16,000 votes marks a substantial victory, and it indicates the potential for even better performance in future elections.”

Looking Ahead

The Election Commission of India conducted the 2024 General Election to the Lok Sabha for 543 seats in seven phases, with the Ladakh Parliamentary Constituency voting on May 20th in the fifth phase. A total of 577 polling stations participated in Ladakh, including 298 in Leh district and 279 in Kargil district.

Ladakh, the largest constituency in the country by area, witnessed a 71.82% voter turnout, with 67.14% in Leh district and 76.15% in Kargil district.

The outcome of the parliamentary election suggests that the upcoming Hill Council elections in Leh may pose significant challenges for the BJP. Haneefa Jaan's victory is not just a personal triumph but a reflection of the collective aspirations of Ladakh's people. As the new MP, he faces the task of addressing the critical demands and leading Ladakh towards a more promising and autonomous future. The people of Ladakh will be watching closely, holding onto the hope that their voices will finally be heard and their needs met.