Having suffered a severe jolt in the Ladakh region due to resignation of its first ever MP of the area, Chhewang Thuptsan, the BJP has again started demanding Union Territory (UT) status for the cold desert region as the general elections are approaching. The party had so far remained silent on the issue after winning the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat in 2014.

Thuptsan had a few days ago resigned from the BJP and also his Lok Sabha seat as the party had failed to implement the promises that its senior leaders made during the election campaign.

Thuptsan’s resignation has rattled the BJP that had also unceremoniously removed Dorjey Motup from the post of chief executive of Leh’s Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and elected Jamyang Tsering Namgial in his place. These developments have caused a serious setback to the party in the area.

The Ladakhi students are also up in arms as the BJP has not met their other demand of establishing a university in the region and including the Bhoti language in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution. The youth of Ladakh have to go to Srinagar, Jammu, Chandigarh, New Delhi and other places for higher study as the area does not have any university.

While campaigning there ahead of the general elections in 2014, Nitin Gadkari and other BJP leaders had reportedly made several promises, including that Ladakh would be granted UT status within six months of the party coming to power ; Bhoti language would be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution; construction of a 14-km tunnel at Zojilla pass on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway that would provide year-round connectivity to landlocked Ladakh and open the Kai lash Mansarovar route via Ladakh and establishment of a full-fledged university in the region.

Sensing the annoyance of the people, a delegation of the BJP governed LAHDC was led here by Namgyal last week and during their meeting with Governor Satyapal Malik urged him to persuade the Centre to grant UT status to Ladakh.

They also demanded opening of the Kai lash Mansarovar route from Ladakh and inclusion of Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. The delegation also urged the Governor to impress upon the air transport operators to fix a cap on air-fares or framing flat flight rates for people of Ladakh and government employees working in the Ladakh region. They demanded exemption from GST for the Scheduled Tribes living in Ladakh region and carving out a separate administrative division for Ladakh with Kargil and Leh districts.

The LAHDC team also met the Governor’s advisors and demanded release of funds for the languishing projects.

After resigning his Lok Sabha seat and also from the BJP, Thuptsan in a hard-hitting letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said none of the promises have been fulfilled although the BJP-led government’s term at the Centre was coming to an end. Thuptsan, who exercises considerable influence in the Buddhist-dominated Leh and parts of Kargil, explained that flawed planning for elections to Kargil’s Ladakh Hill Development Council and the recent municipal elections is what led to the party’s crushing defeat last September. He held the BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and the state BJP chief Ravinder Raina responsible for the defeat of BJP.

Thupstan said the ‘unfulfilled’ promises of development ~ key to winning the Ladakh seat for the first time in 2014 ~ sound like “empty rhetoric” to the region’s electorate.

Thuptsan accused the Modi-led government of doing nothing for Ladakh during its four years of rule at the Centre. Despite repeated pleas to the central leadership, national executive council and even to Modi himself, the 2014 election promises have remained unfulfilled.

“…what could you (Prime Minister) tell the people now? What was achieved five years ago was on the strength of slogans, which to the electorate at large would sound like empty rhetoric at this juncture,” Thuptsan said in his 2-page letter.