Among the seven contestants from Ladakh parliamentary constituency of Jammu and Kashmir, BJP candidate Jamyang Tsering Namgyal is facing investigation in a four-year-old defamation case, while the Congress nominee Rigzin Spalbar, a hotelier by profession, is the only crorepati trying his luck from the seat.
The last date for withdrawal of nomination is April 22 in the constituency that is going to the polls in the last phase of the five-phased elections in the state on May 6.
Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency is the largest in India in terms of area. Out of six parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh has the distinction of having the least number of polling stations, 559, for the lowest number of voters, 1,71,819. Leh and Kargil districts have 294 and 265 polling stations, respectively.
Besides candidates of the Congress and the BJP, five independents are also in the fray, who included a Congress rebel and former MLA Asgar Ali Karbalai and journalist turned politician Sajjad Hussain who is enjoying the backing of arch-rivals National Conference and PDP, making the contest a multi-cornered one.
The 33-year-old Namgyal who is presently the chairman-cum-chief executive councillor (CEC) of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, is facing an investigation into a case lodged against him in 2015.
The case related to conspiracy and defamation is still under investigation, according to the affidavit filed by Namgyal who took over as the CEC of the BJP-led LAHDC in November last year, immediately after the saffron party suffered a major poll debacle when it failed to open an account in the civic polls which was swept by Congress.
Veteran leader Thupstan Chhewang had won the Ladakh parliamentary seat for the saffron party for the first time in 2014 by a narrow margin of 36 votes by defeating Congress rebel candidate Ghulam Raza, but resigned from the primary membership of the party in November last year, claiming that all promises made by it sounded like an “empty rhetoric”.
An arts graduate from Jammu University, Namgyal does not own any vehicle and immovable assets. His movable assets are worth Rs 3,35,157, while his wife, a government employee, owns a car and had assets, both movable and immovable, worth over Rs 5.46 lakhs.
The BJP received a shot in the arm recently when almost entire PDP unit of Leh led by its president Tashi Gyalson joined the party but also faced resentment among senior party leaders in the district for fielding Namgyal and ignoring the senior leaders.
The presence of 61-year-old Congress leader Spalbar, senior Buddhist leader who has served as CEC in the powerful LAHDC twice, pose a major challenge for the BJP to retain the seat though Karbalaie’s decision to contest the elections is being seen as a major setback to the party in Ladakh.
Spalbar the oldest among the contestants – is also the richest having assets worth over Rs five crore, his affidavit revealed.
The Congress leader who is in hotel business shares three vehicles between him and his wife, a government employee, while his movable assets are worth over Rs 25.71 lakh, his wife Rs 13.55 lakh, three dependents over Rs 4.63 lakh together.
A bachelor of Arts (honours) from a Delhi university, Spalbar’s immovable assets stands at Rs 4.62 crore, while his wife has similar assets worth Rs 79.16 lakh.
However, Spalbar has a liability of Rs 60.07 lakh, his wife Rs 27.58 lakh and one of the three dependents Rs seven lakh.
The 54-year-old Karbalai, a matriculate, whose only source of income is pension for being the ex-MLA, has movable assets worth Rs 2,57,608 and his wife only one lakh. His immovable assets stand at Rs 23,72,000 including inherited assets worth Rs 17 lakh.
His jumping into the fray also highlighted the divide between Leh and Kargil and within the Kargil which recently set an example when the local politicians, cutting across party affiliations, successfully launched an agitation to ensure equal share in the divisional status to Ladakh.
In a major decision in February, the governor administration created a separate division for Ladakh, which was part of the Kashmir division until then, with a full administrative and revenue division at par with Kashmir and Jammu divisions.
However, the administration had to reconsider its decision to post divisional commissioner and an inspector general of police (IG) headquarters in Leh after Kargil residents launched a mass agitation following which the administration announced that the newly created administrative division will have its headquarters jointly at Leh and Kargil.
The Kargil residents failed to come out with a consensus candidate as both the influential religious organisations – Imam Khomeni Memorial Trust, Kargil and Islamia School, Kargil – fielded separate candidates — Karbalai and Hussain.
Hussain (37), a freelance journalist who has done masters in human rights and duties, is backed by National Conference and PDP and the presence of Karbalai is bound to divide votes in Kargil mostly between the two. Karbalai enjoys the backing of powerful Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust.
According to the affidavit, Hussain has only movable assets worth Rs 59,000 and his wife Rs 50,000.
The 45-year-old Tsering Nagail, a travel agent by profession with Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree, owns a total assets worth Rs 15.93 lakh, while Mechanical engineering Kachoo Mohammad Feroz (54) has movable assets worth Rs 45,000 and immovable assets worth Rs 20 lakh. Feroz’s wife, a government employee, has movable assets worth Rs 2.60 lakh.
The youngest among the contestants is 30-year-old advocate Asgar Ali who has a total assets worth Rs 30,000 and his wife Rs 20,000.