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Border tension casts shadow over Ladakh council poll

Army convoy moves in Gagangeer moving towards Leh on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The ongoing border tension and the pandemic have cast a shadow over the upcoming election to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh, an elected body that governs local issues in the Union Territory (UT).

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The Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Wednesday told the Chief Election Officer (CEO), Leh, that elections should be delayed “till the border situation becomes normal.” However, the BJP has pitched for election, due in the third week of October.

During a meeting chaired by the CEO, a Congress leader pointed out that the elections should be postponed “as the party apprehends that a large number of people have come to Leh from border villages” due to the border tensions.

“There might not be enough people in the villages for campaigning. A number of areas are devoid of telecommunication and mobile services. In such cases, virtual rallies might not be possible,” the Congress representative said. The party also cited the growing cases of COVID-19 in Leh as another reason to postpone the polls.

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A representative of the AAP, which is contesting the LAHDC-Leh polls for the first time, said the spike in COVID-19 positive cases make “voters above 65 years vulnerable and the elaborate SOPs may result in poor turnout.”

“Due to the ongoing border tension, campaigns in border areas may not be possible and will result in lower electoral participation. The elections should be postponed till the situation turns normal,” the AAP representative said.

The BSP also pointed to the border tension and growing COVID-19 cases.

BJP’s stand

The BJP, however, has backed elections on time. The party’s stand comes days after BJP general secretary Ram Madhav met party leaders in Leh “to assess the situation.”

“A gathering of 20-50 people should be permissible with the standard operating procedure (SOP) laid for COVID-19. Electronic Voting Machines should be used and sanitised after a vote is cast,” a BJP representative told the meeting.

NC, PDP may stay away

For the first time, traditional regional parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may not contest the LAHDC-Leh polls. These parties did not attend the CEO's meeting on Wednesday.

Sources said most leaders of the NC and the PDP in Leh have quit the party after the August 5, 2019, move to end J&K’s special status and carve out Ladakh as a UT without legislature. The AAP and the BSP are new entrants in the Leh politics.

The previous elections to the LAHDC-Leh were held in 2015.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 8:18:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/border-tension-casts-shadow-over-ladakh-council-poll/article32564658.ece

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