The changing dynamics of Ladakh politics

Leh, Jan 02, 2019
Leh :

The recent developments in the politics of Ladakh need to be keenly examined and analysed. The second half of 2018 unfolded a series of interesting political events. The Kargil Hill Council election, municipal elections, shuffling of portfolios in Hill Council Leh, resignation of Ladakh MP, demand for a university and resolutions passed by the Hill Councils demanding Divisional status for Ladakh are the major political happenings needing attention. The climax of the entire sequel of political changes was the resignation by the Ladakh MP, over the “failure” to deliver the promises made by the BJP during the 2014 parliamentary election campaign, and also over the interference of Jammu BJP in the internal affairs of the Ladakh BJP as well as the Hill Councils.

Though the BJP didn’t accept the resignation of Thupstan Chhewang at first, his decision of resigning from both MP and BJP primary membership clearly reflected the stark differences developed between him and the BJP, and the rift that seems to have grown within BJP, Leh. His allegations against the BJP state High Command regarding interventions in the politics of Leh and in the unceremonious deposing of the former CEC, LAHDC, Leh, Dorjey Motup, have raised questions on the competence of the BJP Leh in further strengthening its foothold in the region. The  resignation of Thupstan Chhewang and the conspicuous absence of the explicit endorsement of his stand by any member of the BJP, Leh, makes it clear that he literally got himself isolated from the main domain of the politics of Ladakh. Because the stand he claimed to have taken for the bigger cause of UT for Ladakh was explicitly or implicitly disowned by the BJP, the party he has started and built in Ladakh, as well as LBA, the very religious organisation which he led during the high times of Ladakh politics in the later part of the 80s. However, he has been able to gain the sympathy of opposition as well as the general public at large, if nothing substantial. 

Moreover, the resignation may enhance his public image as one of the most followed leaders of Ladakh and put a respectful end to his active political career.    
And, the meteoric rise of JamyangTsering Namgyal, a young politician, within the BJP party in Leh, before the episode of the resignation of the MP, Ladakh, is important to be recalled here. First, he became the district president of BJP, Leh, with high appreciation and expectations. Then he became the youngest-ever CEC, LAHDC, Leh, following the resignation of the former CEC, Motup Dorjey, citing health reasons. But allegations that appeared in the resignation letter of the MP reflected a different story. This confusion resulted in the emergence of a general political perception among the people of Ladakh that the new CEC is getting political favour from the party high command and is more interested in advancing his personal ambitions at the cost of unanimity within the BJP party in Ladakh. This may be disapproved as baseless by the CEC, but it seems to have penetrated the public domain quite effectively. 

Moreover, the alleged mishandling of the students’ issue and the case of suspension of the Principal of a Higher Secondary School in Nubra by the CEC, became the cause of resentment among students and government servants in the education department. Despite all these negative impressions in the public mind, the young CEC has been trying his best to prove his credentials. Some of the resolutions passed by the LAHDC, Leh, in the recent past demanding Divisional status and Central University for Ladakh as well as Women College and Medical College for Leh have been claimed as major political strides taken by the current Council under his chairmanship. Among these demands, the one for Divisional status for Ladakh has got the limelight because of the positive response from the Governor. The reports that the govt is contemplating accordance of Divisional status for Ladakh have been doing the rounds, of late. The vicissitudes in the political atmosphere of Ladakh within a short span of time has driven things towards uncertainty where it is hard to predict the future course of Ladakh politics. 

Amidst all this, an interesting and encouraging development in the politics of regionalism, mainly between the two districts of Leh and Kargil, cannot go unnoticed. Ever since 1979, Ladakh politics was never free of challenges of regional politics and conflicting interests. Kargil leaders of political and religious organisations always have had an uneasiness with the UT demand which has been strongly advocated by the leaders of political and religious organisations from Leh. There may be a separate debate later on over the logic behind supporting and not supporting the UT demand.

The recent exchange of allegations pertaining to Zojila Tunnel between religious organisations from both the districts reflects the persisting lack of confidence and mutual understanding between the two. However, the on-going demand for Divisional status and Central University for Ladakh, vehemently raised by both the Councils, is likely to augment a sense of bonhomie between two districts and create a way forward for concerted endeavour necessary for certain genuine demands of the entire region of Ladakh. So, there are signs of developing a kind of understanding between the two districts upon those demands which require an indispensable collective assertion of the region as one, but tensions and conflicts regarding priorities, interests, political stands and claims can’t be overlooked. To find a common ground and a concentrated political assertion of Ladakh region as one vis-a-vis Jammu and Kashmir, confidence-building measures between the two districts at Council level are needed to be taken.

Against such a backdrop of the changing political dynamics of Ladakh, it will be interesting to keenly observe the 2019Assembly and parliamentary elections. 
The author, Jegmet Sangyas, is an Assistant Professor (Political Science) at Higher Education Department, J&K