NC suffers jolt in Ladakh as its entire Kargil unit resigns over choice of INDIA bloc's LS candidate

Kargil voters.
Kargil voters.

Kargil | The National Conference suffered a jolt in Ladakh Monday as its entire Kargil unit announced resignation in protest against the party leadership allegedly pressuring them to support Congress candidate from the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat as part of INDIA bloc's seat-sharing agreement.

NC Additional General Secretary Ladakh and former Jammu and Kashmir minister Qamar Ali Akhoon conveyed the unit's decision to party president Farooq Abdullah in a letter.

According to the seat-sharing agreement between the National Conference and Congress under the INDIA bloc, the Ladakh seat was given to Congress.

Talking to reporters here, Akhoon said the NC high command was pressuring them to extend support to Tsering Namgyal, the official Congress candidate from Ladakh, but it was against the decision taken by Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) which has put up Haji Haneefa Jan as its candidate.

Jan, the Kargil district president of the National Conference, has the backing of the Congress's entire Kargil unit and was the unanimous choice to fight the Lok Sabha elections as an independent.

In a related development, two independent candidates -- Sajjad Hussain and Kacho Mohd Feroz -- withdrew their candidature in support of Jan on the last date for withdrawal, setting the stage for a triangular contest on seat where the BJP has fielded Tashi Gyalon, Chief Executive Councillor-cum-Chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Civil Development Council (Leh).

The BJP had won the seat in 2014 and 2019.

Jan also has the backing of powerful religious schools and thus is seen as a serious contender.

The KDA and the Leh Apex Body have been jointly spearheading an agitation for the past four years to demand statehood for Ladakh, its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil and jobs for local youths.

Akhoon said they have taken the decision to resign from the basic membership of NC in the larger interest of Ladakh, especially the Kargil region.

"Jan is the united choice of KDA and we thank both the independents who withdrew in his support. The party high command was putting pressure on us to support Congress party's official candidate. They were telephoning me and I told them 'never'. We made the sacrifice in the larger interest of Ladakh, especially Kargil," he said.

Akhoon said Jan is a unanimous candidate of all political, social and religious groups of Kargil and "we will do whatever is needed for his win".

Jan had already submitted his resignation from the NC and "we are resigning from the basic membership of the party and disassociating with it", he said.

In his letter to Abdullah, Akhoon said Jan is supported by all the political and religious institutions.

"The party high command is pressuring us (both telephonically as well on social media) to support the official candidate of INC (Congress) from Ladakh which is unacceptable to us including J&K NC and INC Unit Kargil,” the letter reads.

Akhoon said this letter may be considered as mass resignation of all party functionaries from the primary membership of J&K National Conference.

Meanwhile, Returning officer of Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency Santosh Sukhadeve confirmed withdrawal of candidature by two independent candidates.

Sajjad Hussain and Feroz, who both hail from Kargil, withdrew their nominations, leaving three candidates in the fray from the constituency, Sukhadeve told PTI.

The Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency, which is the largest in the country in terms of geographical expanse with a total area of 173.266 square kilometers having over 1.82 lakh electorate, is going to polls in the fifth phase of elections on May 20.

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