Assuring the people of Kargil a free and fair hill council election next month, Ladakh Lt Governor Brigadier (Retd) B D Mishra has defended his adminstration’s protracted but unsuccessful battle in the courts against the granting of the ‘plough’ symbol to the National Conference.
He rejected as “totally wrong” allegations that he was biased or was working at the behest of BJP. On September 6, the Supreme Court set aside the August 5 notification of the election department of the Union Territory of Ladakh for the hill council polls and ordered the issuance of a fresh election schedule within a week.
Holding that the National Conference is entitled to the ‘plough’ symbol, a bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah also dismissed the plea by the Ladakh administration opposing the allotment of the symbol to the party and imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the dispensation.
National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the Supreme Court order and said the BJP and the Ladakh administration “did everything possible” to deny them their right, but the court saw through it.
The election to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil is now scheduled for October 4 as per the fresh notification issued by the Ladakh election department.
“I am a worshipper of the Constitution of India and I have taken an oath to defend, preserve and protect it. I am a devotee of democracy and therefore I am a watchman for free and fair elections. It is my resolve that free and fair elections should take place,” Brigadier (Retd) Mishra told PTI-Video in an exclusive interview in Jammu.
The Lt Governor said he is monitoring the entire election process including the deployment of staff to ensure elections are held in a “free and fair” manner.
“It is all being taken care of and I can assure (the people) that the hill council elections will be absolutely 100 percent free, fair and timely,” he said.
On the National Conference’s accusations the he was biased, Mishra said, “it is a totally wrong statement or a wrong insinuation.” “I am the Lt Governor there (in Ladakh) and to me every party is the same. I am having no brief, suggestion or instruction from any party… responsible parties know that in a democracy, elections have to be free and fair and it has to be decided by laws, rules and regulations.
“So I am not having any brief from anybody, which is the first thing. And secondly, if somebody is saying that I am having a brief, it is totally a lie. I do not entertain such a statement because these are incorrect,” the Lt Governor said.
The army veteran said he studied everything before the elections as he knew such issues may come up.
“When I studied and discussed it with my secretaries and everybody, the issue of reserving any symbol for a party was not there. So then I consulted the legal luminaries at Delhi and even I consulted very senior people, advocates who are there for the government. They said the election symbol can be reserved by the election commission of India and not by the UT government,” he said.
The Lt Governor said he took the decision after self study and on the basis of the advice he got.
“The case went to high court, but once I had studied everything and once I had all the free and frank opinions from very learned advocates, I thought I had to contest it (the decision of the court).
“The advocates said what UT has decided is correct and therefore I had to go through the legal process. I could not have left it halfway because that would have (given a notion) that I don’t have conviction. I had conviction, I had honesty, I had studied and I was convinced that the decision was correct. Therefore, I had to go through the legal process,” he said.
The Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court had earlier dismissed the Ladakh administration’s plea against a single bench order that had allowed NC candidates to contest the LAHDC, Kargil, polls on the party symbol.
The administration had approached a division bench of the high court against the single bench order of August 9 which directed the NC to approach the office of the Election Department of the administration of Ladakh to notify the reserved symbol “plough”.
Earlier, the polls for 26 seats of the 30-member LAHDC, Kargil, were scheduled for September 10. The reset of the four members are nominated by the administration with full voting rights.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)