No impact of boycott call, people gearing up to take part in polls

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Leh, Nov 10: People in this buddhist dominated region are gearing up to elect their representatives on November 17 as there was no impact of separatists poll boycott call visible in Leh and Nobra constituencies where two independent candidates were declared elected unopposed in 2002 elections.

However, this time both the constituencies will witness a multi- corner contest.

The entire Ladakh region consisting of 4 assembly constituencies -- Leh, Nobra, Kargil and Zanaskar-- remained by and large peaceful during the two decade militancy in other parts of the Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the Kargil hit the headlines in 1999 when Pakistani intruders occupied maximum heights, including Batalik, Tololing, Mushkoo valley and Drass and Tiger Hills to surprise the Indian troops who had withrawan during winter. Now the heights are being guarded round the year despite temperature going down to minus 40 degrees in winter.

Mr Nawang Rigzin and Sonam Wangchuk won as independents from Leh and Nobra respectively in 2002 after all political parties decided not to contest from these constituencies.

Leh, the buddhist dominated constituency, remained stronghold of Congress as the party had won five times--1967,1972,1977,1987 and 1996-- against the National Conference (NC) once in 1983 while the NC headed by former Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad represented it in 1957 and 1962 when Sheikh Abdullah, was leading plebiscite front.

The constituency always recorded highest number of voter turnout as compared to other assembly segments of the state in the previous polls.

More than a dozen polling stations are being set up near the China border while about one dozen near the Line of Control (LoC) bordering Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Mr Rigzin, who represented the constituency as an independent in 2002, is this time trying his luck on Congress ticket while he is being challenged by Phonchok Tundup (BSP), Tashi Gyalson (Peoples Democratic Party), Mohammad Ramzan (National Panthers Party) and Thupstan Chhewang (Independent).

The NC did not field any candidate from Leh and Nobra segments this time too.

The constituency has 62,533 voters, including 30,853 women.

The authorities have decided to set up 183 polling station as compared to 173 in 2002.

The PDP and the NC have not fielded any candidate from Nubra constituency where Tsewang Rigzin is contesting on Congress ticket.

He is facing Ahmad Shah, Urgain Chostak and Tsetan Namgyal, all independents.

The authorities have set up 56 polling booth in the segment for 11,863 voters, including 5,920 women voters.

Mr Sonam Wangchuk, an independent candidate, was elected unopposed from the Nobra Assembly segment in the 2002 elections.

The constituency was carved out on April 27, 1995 and Mr Testan Namgyal of NC was the first candidate to represent it in 1996.

The contesting candidates have already started campaigning to woo the voters in their favour as there was no impact of boycott call.

Local politics, particularly development of the area, unemployment and shortage of electricity are the main issue raised by the contestants during their campaigning.

UNI

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