Jammu: Congress is facing an uphill task to win the Ladakh parliamentary seat as a party rebel, backed by an influential religious organisation, has filed his nomination as an independent candidate, making the May 6 election a multi-cornered contest involving BJP.
Rigzin Spalbar, of Congress, is fighting against party rebel Asgar Ali Karbalai.
Spalbar, a Buddhist leader, is a two-time chief executive councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), and Karbalai is a former MLA of Kargil.
There are six other candidates in the election fray.
Tsering Namgyal, the current CEC of the hill development council and graduate from University of Jammu, is the BJP candidate. Dorji Angchuk is its “covering candidate”.
On the last day of filing of nominations on Thursday, five independents, including Karbalai, filed their papers with the election commission.
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.
Karbalai, after denial of Congress ticket, decided to take on Spalbar, in a major setback to the grand old party. He is backed by the influential Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust, Kargil.
The NC-PDP has fielded a joint candidate.
Namgyal, 31, has served as private secretary to former BJP MP and renowned Buddhist spiritual leader Thupstan Chhewang.
But, political observers say, the saffron party is struggling to rise to the challenge.
Chhewang had won the seat for BJP for the first time in 2014 but he resigned from its primary membership in November last year, calling BJP’s promises “empty rhetoric”.
In Ladakh, the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 22.
According to the election commission, most of the polling stations have been set up at an altitude of 8,001 or higher, and the maximum number of high-altitude stations, 183, is in Leh assembly segment, followed by 158 in Kargil.
With a polling booth for least number of voters and one at the highest altitude, Leh has it all. The polling station for the least number of voters 12 has been set up at Gaik village in Leh Assembly segment. Five of the voters in Gaik are male and seven female, officials said.
The constituency also has a polling station at the highest altitude in the country at 14,890 ft above the sea level at a place called Anlay Pho.