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69.62 percent votes cast in Ladakh’s first election as UT, Kargil records 9 percent more votes than Leh

Women voters show a mark of indelible ink after casting their votes in Skara Yokma, Leh on Monday.
Women voters show a mark of indelible ink after casting their votes in Skara Yokma, Leh on Monday.

Since 2004, the polling rate has fallen continuously

RO says FIR registered in graffiti outside Polling Stn

EVMs from distant areas can be reached from today

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 20: The first parliamentary elections in the Union Territory of Ladakh passed off peacefully with 69.62 percent of the 1.84 lakh voters exercising their right to be entitled to vote for a single parliamentary seat, almost two percent less than in 2019 when the turnout was 71.5.
Shia Muslim-dominated Kargil district, which had nearly 7,000 votes more than Buddhist-majority Leh district, also excelled in voting with a 74 percent voter turnout, compared to 64.9 percent in Leh district.

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The Ladakh Lok Sabha seat, won by the BJP for the last two consecutive terms of 2014 and 2019, included only two districts Leh and Kargil and witnessed a triangular contest between Tashi Gyalson (BJP), Tsering Namgyal (Congress) and Mohammad Haneefa Jan (Independent), supported by National Conference and Congress units of Kargil district.

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Their fate was wrapped up in the EVMs that will be brought to Leh, but it will take some time to monitor many remote polling stations. However, strong chambers have also been created at the local level before shifting the EVMs to Leh, the officials said.
The election officials said the voting percentage was 69.62, with 74 percent in Kargil and 64.9 in Leh.
Voting percentage has been continuously declining in Ladakh constituency, which was earlier part of Jammu and Kashmir and saw its first Lok Sabha vote today after becoming the Union Territory on August 5, 2019.
The voter turnout in Ladakh was 73.52 percent in 2004, which stood at 72.8 percent in 2009, 71.40 percent in 2014, 71.5 percent in 2019 and 69.62 percent in 2024.
Briefing the media in Leh after the polling concluded, Returning Officer for Ladakh Parliamentary Constituency and Deputy Commissioner Leh Santosh Sukhdeve and SP Leh Shruti Arora said the elections were conducted peacefully.
Replying to a question on a graffiti exterior wall of a polling station in Housing Colony, Leh, Sukhdeve said an FIR has been registered and CCTV footage will be examined for action. The graffiti was discovered around 1 p.m.
According to locals, the graffiti was provocatively directed against the BJP.
On violation of the Model Code of Conduct, Sukhdeve said that no violations such as gatherings etc. have been reported after the deadline, but if anyone has violated the MCC on social media, it will be investigated.
He said there were five votes in Warshi polling station and along with them, the polling station also exercised their voting rights there.
Due to pleasant weather across the Union Territory of Ladakh, long queues of voters, including women and first-time voters (both boys and girls), were observed outside polling stations in Leh and Kargil towns, surrounding areas and also in Nubra and Zanskar.
Polling stations set up in higher altitudes, including Hanle Phu, the world’s second highest polling station at an altitude of almost 4,500 meters above sea level, saw an impressive turnout.
Though the Election Commission deployed paramilitary forces in Ladakh and all polling stations, including 298 in Leh and 279 in Kargil, had sufficient paramilitary and police personnel, the voting was peaceful and no untoward incidents were reported from any part of the parliamentary constituency. Polling agents, security personnel and EVMs will be brought back tomorrow by air from five polling stations, including two in Leh and three in Kargil district.
The count will take place on June 4.
Spread over an area of ​​over 59,000 square kilometers – about 40 times the size of Delhi – Ladakh is the largest parliamentary constituency in India by area, covering the two districts of Leh and Kargil.
Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh Brig (Dr) BD Mishra (Retd) and his wife Neelam Mishra were among those who cast their votes at Skara Yokma in Leh.
“Voting is the celebration of democracy. I’m glad we celebrate it this way. Free and fair voting is an important step in democracy. I want Ladakh to always grow and our youth to get every good opportunity,” Mishra told reporters in Leh after the vote.
BJP candidate Tashi Gyalson, chairman-cum-CEC of Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council and his Congress opponent Tsering Namgyal, who is Leader of Opposition (LOP) in the Council, exercised their right to franchise in Leh, while the third candidate in the fray Mohammad Haneefa Jan (Independent), who was also Chairman and CEC of Kargil Hill Development Council, cast his vote in Kargil.
Noted climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who was recently in news for leading a 66-day sit-in protest in Leh over demands such as safeguards under the 6th Program for Ladakh and the State, cast his vote in the village Ulyaktopo in Leh.
“I just voted and I’m happy. I am also sad because many people do not exercise their right to vote. Many leaders have sacrificed a lot for this country. People should celebrate the festival of democracy,” Wangchuk said.
Ladakh Chief Electoral Officer Yetindra M Maralkar said earlier in the day that they expect up to 75 percent of the votes by the end of the day.
“We are witnessing the enthusiasm among voters and I believe the voting percentage will also improve this time. By the end of the day, this could go up to 75 percent,” Maralkar said.
Here were at least ten ‘Model Booths’ with traditional seating and local refreshments, while election-boosting music was played.
The Congress won the seat for the highest number of times – six – and had fielded Tsering Namgyal, the leader of opposition in the LAHDC, as per an agreement with the NC as they were members of the INDIA bloc. However, National Conference and Congress units of Kargil district revolted against the decisions of their respective parties and fielded Haneefa Jan, who was district president of the NC, as an independent candidate.
The two districts, which came together over demands such as the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the State, appeared divided at the polls, with the expectation that voting would be done along regional lines. Congress and BJP candidates belonged to the Buddhist-majority Leh district, where votes are expected to be split between the two, while Jan is the lone candidate in Shia Muslim-dominated Kargil.
BJP won the Ladakh seat for the last two consecutive terms in 2014 and 2019. Thupstan Chhewang of BJP won the seat in 2014, while Jamyang Tsering Namgayal retained it in 2019. However, both times there were two candidates from Leh and Kargil districts, but this time there was only one candidate from Kargil.
Of the total 1.84 lakh voters in Ladakh, 95,926 were in Kargil district and 88,877 in Leh. There were 298 polling stations in Leh and 279 polling stations in Kargil. In both districts, the election authorities had established Model and Pink polling stations.
This was the first major electoral contest in the region after it was taken out of Jammu and Kashmir and given the status of a Union Territory in 2019, although Hill Council elections were held in both Leh and Kargil districts. While the BJP got an absolute majority in the Leh council for the second time in a row, the National Conference-Congress alliance got a huge mandate in the Kargil council.