Ladakh is bracing for a major electoral battle amid political fight for statehood and constitutional protections on land and identity.
Ahead of polls for Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council (Kargil) on Wednesday, the BJP has fielded national leaders for campaigning against National Conference-Congress alliance, which has a formidable base in the region and held the outgoing council.
The opposition is projecting the elections as referendum against the Centre's decision of carving out Ladakh as a separate Union Territory from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.
Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader and former J&K chief minister, who joined the election campaign on Saturday said Wednesday's vote will decide if people have accepted or rejected the Centre's decision of stripping J&K of its statehood and special status under Article 370.
"This is the first time after August 5, 2019 that you are getting an opportunity to raise your voice," said Omar Abdullah.
"You can send a clear message through your vote whether you accept or reject the decisions of 5th August 2019," Mr Abdullah told an election rally in Kargil.
Mr Abdullah accused the administration of harassing his party functionaries in Kargil after the party won a legal battle and retained its Plough symbol for elections.
The Ladakh administration had denied the Plough symbol to National Conference candidates.
Early this month, the Supreme Court set aside election process for Ladakh Hill council elections that were due on September 10.
The top court dismissed Ladakh UT administration petition opposing allotment of 'Plough' symbol to J&K National Conference.
The court had directed the Ladakh administration to issue fresh notification for elections. Subsequently, fresh notification was issued and polling will take place on October 4. Results will be declared on October 8.
There are 85 candidates contesting for 26 seats.
The BJP is fighting on 17 seats and also supporting some independent candidates. While the National Conference and Congress are in alliance, they have fielded candidates against each other on some seats which they describe as 'friendly' contest.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari is expected to campaign for the party candidates on Sunday. Several BJP leaders have already campaigned, including Union Minister of State for Culture and External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi.
Over the last three years, political parties, social and religious groups in Ladakh have forged an alliance demanding statehood for the Ladakh and constitutional protection under the 6th schedule.