The Bharatiya Janata Party secured 15 seats of the 26 seats, winning the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council elections on Monday. The Congress won nine constituencies, while Independent candidates secured two. This was the first election of the Hill Council after the Centre on August 5, 2019, abrogated the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

BJP leaders took to Twitter to celebrate the victory. BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda called the victory historic and congratulated Ladakh unit chief Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and the party workers.

Union minister Piyush Goyal also congratulated the Ladakh BJP for emerging victorious “by working diligently to realise aspirations of the people” of the Union territory. “This marks a new era of development of Ladakh under PM [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi’s visionary leadership,” he tweeted.

This is the second time the BJP has won the hill council elections. The BJP wrested control from the Congress in the last elections for the first time by winning 18 out of the 26 seats. The Congress has won thrice. Regional parties such as the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party did not contest the polls.

The voting began on October 16. Leh recorded a 65.07% voter turnout in the hill council or LAHDC elections, according to PTI. The BJP, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and 23 Independent candidates are in the fray for 26 seats. The AAP was contesting the LAHDC polls for the first time by fielding 19 candidates.

During the voting, 89,776 voters, including 45,025 women, exercised their franchise in 294 polling stations spread over 26 constituencies across the Leh district. The council has 30 seats, but four councilors are nominated by the government.

On September 22, all political and religious organisations in Ladakh had unanimously decided to boycott the hill council elections over their demand for bringing the region under the ambit of provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The ruling BJP was also a signatory to the declaration calling for a boycott, along with 11 other parties.

On September 27, the People’s Movement, a platform representing various politicians and organisations, had withdrawn their call to boycott the elections after its representatives held talks with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi.

The group had said in a statement that the government was open to discussing the protection available under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution for the region. The statement had also said that the delegation members were assured by Shah that the Centre would take care of matters relating to land, jobs, demography, ethnicity, among others.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution protects tribal populations and provides autonomy to the communities by the creation of autonomous development councils, which can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture, etc. The demand for an autonomous council had come after the Centres’ August 5 move.