Ladakh Union Territory status row: Mehbooba Mufti lashes out at Cong

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Srinagar, April 16: Unexpected controversy erupted in the midst of polling in Jammu and Kashmir when the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday lashed out the Congress on its demand of making Ladakh, a "Union Territory".

"Congress move is like another partition of India", Mufti said within hours of Congress party's demand to redraw Jammu and Kashmir map came out in the open.

"Such a move will not only divide Jammu and Kashmir, but will also dilute the special status that the state enjoys under Article 370 of the constitution," Mehbooba Mufti said.

According to a report, Congress has made the demand a part of its manifesto for 2014 parliamentary polls for the Ladakh which mentions that Congress "stands for the struggle for the Union Territory status to Ladakh."

The manifesto was released by the party during an election rally held in support of its candidate for the Ladakh parliamentary seat, Tsering Samphel, at Leh, where senior party leader and state cabinet minister Nawang Rigzin Jora was also present.

Mehbooba also accused Congress of playing "polarising" politics while trying to "outsmart" BJP.

"Congress is trying to outsmart BJP. It is trying to play a polarising card. They hanged Afzal Guru (Parliament attack convict) as part of it and to outsmart BJP.

"He was not hanged on the matter of principles but to score a point over BJP. Now also, they want to score a point over BJP, as BJP supports the demand for Union Territory status for Ladakh," she said.

Mehbooba also criticised the ruling National Conference (NC) in the state, saying it was "hypocritical" of the party to have an alliance with those parties who want to divide the state.

"NC has always been hypocritical. How did they join hands with such a party (BJP) which is principally opposed to Article 370?" she said.

"They (NC) joined hands with BJP and Omar Abdullah was a minister at the Centre when Gujarat (riots) happened in 2002. And now they are in alliance with a party which is demanding the Union Territory status for Ladakh and trying to divide the state," she said.

However, Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Saif-ud-din Soz denied inclusion of demand for Union Territory Status to frontier Ladakh region saying "it is not the manifesto of Congress but a local demand."

"It (demand for Union Territory Status) is a local issue and not of the whole state. The hill council (Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council) that has demanded it and we have not said no but if it would have been achievable, then it would have been done. We do not know if that is achievable or not but it is not the manifesto of Congress," Soz said.

About Ladakh polls

Congress has been losing Ladakh LS seat, which is currently a part of Kasmir division, since 1998 and this year, it has nominated Tsering Samphel from the seat against BJP candidate and Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) leader Thupstan Chhewang.

In Ladakh constituency, that has 1.78 lakh voters, 22 polling stations have been categorised as hyper-senstive.

The coldest desert of Ladakh, goes to polls on May 7- the fifth and the final phase of voting in Jammu and Kashmir.

The mountainous Ladakh area, which is bordered by Pakistan and China, has two districts- Leh and Muslim-dominated Kargil, with four assembly segments.

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