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Cracks in BJP’s Ladakh Unit Out in the Open, Time Ripe for Course Correction

Chhewang was elected from Ladakh in 2014 by a narrow margin of 36 votes over his closest rival Ghulam Raza, who was a Congress leader but was contesting as an Independent candidate.

Sajjad Kargili |

Updated:November 16, 2018, 1:27 PM IST
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Cracks in BJP’s Ladakh Unit Out in the Open, Time Ripe for Course Correction
(Image: india.gov.in)
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Leh: In a major setback to the BJP in the Ladakh region, one of its senior-most political leaders and current MP from the region, Thupstan Chhewang has resigned from the party.

Chhewang was elected from Ladakh in 2014 by a narrow margin of 36 votes over his closest rival Ghulam Raza, who was a Congress leader but was contesting as an Independent candidate.

In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Chhewang made several promises, including Union Territory status for Ladakh and improved connectivity for the Ladakh region. Other BJP leaders such as Nitin Gadkari promised to deliver these promises within six months if the party came to power in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP entered into a coalition with the PDP to form the state government but later withdrew support.

There are unconfirmed reports of Chhewang and other BJP leaders in Ladakh demanding support from the party leadership to deliver on promises made before the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP has started paying the price for the failure to deliver on its promises.

After the untimely demise of the then chairman/chief executive councilor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Dr Sonam Dawa Lonpo, Dorjey Mutup was elected to the post. However, there were other aspirants such as councillor from Martseland and former personal assistant to Chhewang, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal. Before his association with the MP, Namgyal was active in student politics and close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

In the by-elections in Thiksey constituency held in June 2018 to fill the post vacated by the sudden death of Dr Sonam Dawa Lonpo, Congress managed to win the seat for the first time in the Hill Council’s history. This was followed by the BJP’s failure to win a single seat in the urban local body elections in Leh and Kargil.

In the wake of these events, Mutup stunned everyone on October 28 by announcing his resignation. The party publicly maintained that the resignation was made on ‘health grounds. However, there are reports citing BJP sources that the resignation was the result of the party’s failure to deliver on development.

Meanwhile, Ravinder Raina was elected as BJP’s state president in J&K on May 13. This allowed Namgyal and others in Leh a free-hand as they enjoyed the support of Raina. The rift within BJP, Leh had started to grow.

This was evident with Namgyal being elevated to the post of president of BJP’s Leh unit and then as the youngest CEC of LAHDC November 10 over other senior party leaders such as Gyal P Wangyal who was elected as deputy CEC.

In the context of these developments and the BJP’s refusal to pay heed to their demands, Chhewang was left with few options to save face in Ladakh.

BJP sources say that he was so annoyed with the interference by the state leaders that he refused to campaign for the party during the civic elections. These developments have now culminated with his resignation.

The cracks in the party hierarchy can no longer be hidden from public gaze. These developments are bound to hurt BJP in Ladakh. There has been little response from the BJP to demands for a university in Ladakh. In fact, Namgyal is facing flak on social media for his repose to various demands from students in Leh.

However, Chhewang’s resignation may also be a public performance to help the BJP save face. He could retract his resignation and allow the party to shift the blame for its own failure as it starts to gear up for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, the electorate in Ladakh seems to have sent a fairly clear message that it will no longer accept political drama in the face of meaningful development.

Sajjad Hussain Kargili is a journalist from Ladakh. Views are personal

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