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LAHDC Leh polls announced: An acid test for BJP in Ladakh

Last Updated on September 19, 2020 at 8:02 pm

Elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh polls have been announced. The authorities have decided to hold the election to LAHDC against the demand of opposition for postponing them in wake of simmering tension along the border with China and also due to the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.

In the notification issued by Saugat Biswas, Divisional Commissioner Ladakh said that the voting will take place on October 16 and the election will take place in twenty-six constituencies of the council. He said that proper measures will be taken during the election process. 

Earlier the representatives of opposition parties such as Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, and Bahujan Samaj Party had asked the authorities to postpone the elections in the views of escalating border tensions and a rise in Coronavirus cases in the region but the authorities decided to go ahead with the elections.

This will be the 6th election of LAHDC Leh. The Council was set-up under the LAHDC act 1995 under the direct control of the center. Later another Hill Council was formed in Kargil in 2003.  

As the authorities of the Union Territory of Ladakh have called for elections, the district magistrate of Leh, Sachin Kumar Vaishya has immediately put in place the model code of conduct in the district and directed all the parties and independent candidates to follow the guidelines issued by the magistrate for the smooth conduct of the elections. 

The model code of conduct is basically a set of guidelines issued by authorities of India for the conduct of political parties and candidates with respect to their speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifesto, processions, and general conduct. This set of standards has been developed with the agreement of political parties and independents candidates who are going for elections. The political parties and candidates have to follow the principles written in the model code of conduct. The MCC comes into action immediately after the elections are announced.

The main purpose of the model code of conduct is to ensure that the parties at the center level or at the state level don’t use their position of advantage to gain votes unfairly.

The elections are being held as the locals frequently protest against the shortage of jobs and domestic issues in Leh.

The elections have come at the time when locals have started believing that LAHDC has become a toothless body since the body has no constitutional powers after the application of 370. The LAHDC elections will be the first elections after Ladakh has been declared a Union Territory. Ladakh has been ruled by the authorities who are under the direct control of the Center.

After the announcement of LAHDC polls, a training was held for the Returning Officers (ROs) and Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) who are to be deployed for duties, under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner and Chief Election Officer, Leh Sachin Kumar Vaishya at DC office conference hall.

A total of 65 ROs & AROs of Leh, Nyoma, Khaltsi, Durbuk and Kharu Tehsils attended the training programme.

Addressing the gathering, DC, Leh stated that due to the current COVID-19 situation across the country, the election to LAHDC will be held in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) followed by SOP/guidelines laid by the MHA.

He gave details about the nomination process which will commence from September 21 and also discussed the roles and responsibility of ROs and AROs during the election.

He further added that a person with disability (PWD) and a person whose age is more than 65 years also have optional services to take part in the election through Postal ballot. A person at quarantine, home isolation, facility isolation and the employees that are placed at Covid-19 hospital and facility centre will also take part in the election with postal ballot.

Later, DC said that self conduct of each polling staff would be important in completing the entire election process.

DC Leh instructed all the deployed employees to reach their designated constituency as per the given time frame. He also instructed all the employees who are deployed for the duties to take the training seriously saying that even a small mistake of an individual can spoil the entire election process of the constituency.

The main contenders of LAHDC are BJP and Congress as the NC and PDP may not take part in the polls in as a mark of protest against abrogation of Article 370. In the 30- members for the LAHDC elections, 26 members are elected while 4 members are nominated with no voting rights. In the current situation, BJP has elected 18 representatives, Congress has elected five, and the National Conference has elected two members while one is an Independent candidate.

An order by Deputy Commissioner states, “Now, therefore, exercising the powers vested under section 144 of the criminal procedure code, 1973 and the disaster management Act 2005 IAS Sachin Kumar Vaishya district magistrate, Leh hereby order that”:

  1. No rallies/ public meetings of a political nature shall be permitted in the district without prior permission. For organizing any rally/public meeting permission has to be obtained and the same shall have to be produced for inspection on demand by officers/officials on election duty like magistrates and police officers/ personnel at the venue of rallies/public meetings. 
  2. No vehicle shall be used for electioneering/campaigning, loud announcement without prior permission. The permission obtained shall be displayed on the windshield of the four-wheeler in such a way so the same is visible to the authorities. For two-wheelers, such permission need not be displayed but should be produced on demand for inspection. In addition, no official vehicle shall also be used for electioneering/campaigning.
  3. Public premises and government structures like buildings, electric poles, road dividers, etc. shall not be defaced by the posters, flags, and banners; and, private structures shall be used only with the prior consent of the owners. 
  4. Non-biodegradable materials like plastic, polythene, etc. shall not be used for any kind of electioneering/campaigning activities.
  5. The loud announcement shall not be carried out without prior permission; and, in no case, this would be allowed in the vicinity of schools, hospitals, and old-age homes. Under no circumstances, announcements shall be allowed before 10 a.m and after 6 p.m. 
  6. Liquor, cash, food, and consumer goods shall not be distributed by any organization/political parties, Independent candidates, etc. in any case. This shall apply to non-governmental organizations also.
  7. The registered/ licensed Liquid shops shall inform the magistrate concerned, Excise and Police authorities about their daily sales of liquor; and bulk sales shall be specially brought immediately to the notice of the authorities. The magistrates on duty and the state tax officer, with the assistance of the police, shall take stringent legal action against all unregistered/unlicensed bars/liquor shops immediately and submit action taken report to the undersigned on the daily basis after the issuance of this order. 
  8. Broad guidelines for the conduct of the 6th LAHDC elections by the undersigned vis-a-vis COVID-19 and SOP’s/Guidelines issued by the MHA, GoI from time to time shall have to be followed in letter and spirit during the entire election process.