Prime Minister Narendra Modi dramatically expanded his Cabinet last week, with 43 ministers taking oath of office, but one regional constituency is unhappy with the exercise: Buddhists in Ladakh.
Buddhist leaders in the Union territory, including BJP members, have written to the PM saying their community does not have representation at the central level.
BJP Ladakh secretary Gulam Abbas Abidi, who wrote to both Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, said the non-inclusion of a representative from Ladakh in the Cabinet was “disappointing”, according to a letter accessed by The Print website.
The last time Ladakh was represented at the Centre was under the “Congress government”, a decade ago, the letter said.
Others who wrote to the PM include BJP leader Tashi Gyalson, chief executive councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, and Kaushok Thiksay, who heads the Thikse Monastery, one of the largest gompas in Ladakh.
According to the 2011 census, Buddhists make up 0.7 per cent of India’s population, of which neo-Buddhists (Ambedkarites who converted to Buddhism) account for 87 per cent, and traditional Buddhists the rest.
In 2019 the Centre reconstituted Ladakh, which has the largest percentage of traditional Buddhists in India (39.7 per cent), as a UT, separate from the rest of Jammu and Kashmir. In the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won the lone Ladakh seat.
In his letter to Modi, Gyalson said: “As you are aware, after decades of neglect by successive governments, our party has conferred Ladakh with the Union Territory status in 2019 that had not only been rejoiced by the people of Ladakh, but also had a great political resonance nationwide.”
“At a time when the Union Territory of Ladakh is still at its nascent stage, the region is subject to lots of political pulls and pressures, including the destructive elements from JK… there is also the national security imperative of keeping the emotion and moral of the people strong and united in the face of ‘Chinese assertion’ along our borders… The exclusion of Ladakh representation in the making of the new Cabinet has been a disappointment and has gone against the ‘regional aspiration’,” the letter said, according to The Print.
Thiksay requested that the local MP be included in the Cabinet.
“When the Indian government abrogated the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, and divided it into two Union Territories, Ladakh, a Buddhist state, rejoiced that decision,” The Print quoted a Ladakh BJP leader as saying. “Kashmir has got better due, which was our charge against dominance of Kashmir… Jitendra Singh is a minister from Kashmir, but we have no representative in the Union Cabinet… our neglect continues.”
Meanwhile, in Jammu, local leaders are unhappy with the composition of J&K team that recently met with Modi in New Delhi.
Fourteen leaders from eight political parties in J&K – including the National Conference, the PDP, the BJP and the Congress – met the PM on June 24.
The right-wing Ikk Jammu Jammu party’s president, Ankur Sharma, said the Centre was “conspiring to permanently enslave Jammu” by resurrecting Kashmiri hegemony.