Mufti gives more power to Ladakh
19 November 2002
The Times of India
SANT KUMAR SHARMA TIMES NEWS NETWORK
JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is learnt to have decided to give more powers to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). The move is being seen as an attempt to ensure unstinted support of the two MLAs from the Leh district who are part of the coalition government. Mufti has entrusted his confidante, law and finance minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, with the job of examining the issue. The MLAs, Pinto Norboo and Nawang Rigzin Jora, were declared elected unopposed on the ticket of the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF), which is fighting for Union Territory (UT) status for Ladakh. In the run-up to the assembly elections, the LUTF crushed the challenge of all political parties of the region to ensure the unopposed election of its candidates. But, with the UT status appearing unattainable for now, the LUTF seems intent on extracting as much powers for the LAHDC as possible from the state government. This is meant to ensure that even if Leh fails to become a UT de jure at this juncture, it becomes one de facto, according to Ladakhis. The LUTF had not expected to be a part of any government. The fractured nature of mandate has, however, emboldened it to venture out and support the coalition government on its own terms and conditions. LAHDC executive councillor Thupstan Chhewang was given a red-carpet welcome by the state government on his arrival here, over a week ago. The CM went out of his way to host a dinner for Chhewang, who was treated ''for the first time '' as a state guest. Speculation was rife that Chhewang had resigned from his post to exert pressure on the PDP-Congress government for extracting concessions for the LAHDC. Ladakhi leaders neither denied nor confirmed these reports, preferring to thrash out the issue with Mufti behind closed doors. Minister of state for works Nawang Rigzin Jora, who represents the Leh constituency, said ''It was nice of Mufti Saheb to have hosted a dinner in Mr Chhewang''s honour. His predecessor had not even hosted a tea party for the chief executive councillor of the LAHDC.'' Sources say it was likely that the Mufti government would soon grant the LAHDC chief executive councillor the status of a cabinet minister. The erstwhile Farooq Abdullah government had repeatedly snubbed this long-pending demand of the Ladakh councillors.