11/05/2019 11:26 AM IST

Ladakh: Army In Postal Ballot Controversy

Independent candidates in Ladakh have accused Commanding officers of army units of influencing postal ballots of jawans in favor of BJP

ATISH PATEL via Getty Images

CHANDIGARH, Panjab: Amidst raging controversy of BJP leaders offering a bribe to Leh journalists to ‘influence’ Lok Sabha elections in Ladakh, two independent candidates have now accused commanding officers of army units posted in Ladakh of influencing the postal ballots of jawans in favor of the BJP.

While speaking to HuffPost India, independent candidate Asgar Ali Karbalai said that instead of supplying postal ballot papers for casting votes, the army officers are telephonically asking jawans for their voting preference. 

“During 2014 general elections, the BJP candidate Thupstan Chhewang won by a margin of 36  votes on the basis of postal ballot. This time also jawans have alleged that they were not provided postal ballots and instead were asked to inform their preferences telephonically to their company commanders,” said Karbalai. 

He said that majority of the complaints were received form army personnels particularly from Ladakh Scouts and paramilitary forces. For the 2019 general elections, over 4000 postal ballots were distributed in Ladakh seat.

Following a written complaint sent by Karbalai and Sajjad Hussain Kargili,  Ladakh Returning Officer Avny Lavasa has written to General Officer Commanding, 14 Corps requesting him to direct army officers not to ask jawans for their voting preference.

Accepting that some political candidates have complained regarding postal ballot process to be cast by service personnel,  Defence PRO Col. Rajesh Kalia at Srinagar said that in-depth investigation is on to ascertain the details in the most impartial manner. 

“Preliminary investigation indicates that the complaints are unfounded and appears to have been made to tarnish the image of the army. The army remains apolitical and we hold this core value in letter and spirit,” said Col Kalia.