The elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) were significant because it was the first such polls since the Centre abrogated Article 370, divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir and created the Union Territory of Ladakh in 2019. The polls were also held against the backdrop of reports of Chinese incursions. However, the results declared on Sunday have gone in favour of the National Conference-Congress alliance, which has claimed the outcome as a vote against the 2019 events. The results are disappointing for the BJP, which claimed credit for creating the UT: The party represents the Ladakh constituency in the Lok Sabha, but could win only two of the 30 seats in the LAHDC. The outcome also suggests that the voters have ignored the twin fault lines in the region — Muslim-Buddhist and among Muslims, the Shia-Sunni divide — and preferred an inclusive regional narrative.
The LAHDC polls, hopefully will lead to the revival of the political process in Jammu and the Kashmir Valley. Local body elections are scheduled to be held in J&K this month. As the recent Anantnag incident suggests, insurgency and cross-border threats remain live issues. That, however, should not hold the Centre back from restoring electoral democracy in the UT. All the claims of peace will add to nothing if the political actors are not allowed the freedom to conduct their business. The phenomenal increase in tourist traffic and the successful conduct of G20 events only suggest the presence of an efficient bureaucracy working in a secure and sanitised environment. The true test of normalcy will be the conduct of assembly elections.