The Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUFT) on Thursday merged with the BJP in a bid to bolster their long pending demand for declaring Ladakh as a Union Territory.
Declaring it as a "historic day", as many as 17 elected councillors of the Ladakh Hill Development Council (HDC) joined the national party in the presence of former BJP president Rajnath Singh at a small ceremony in Leh.
Speaking on the occasion, Thupstan Chhewang, former president of LUFT, said, "This is a historic day because we are merging with a national party to boost support for our 15-year-old demand to declare Ladakh as a Union Territory."
He said the people of the region were perturbed because the Central government always focused its attention towards Kashmir and its issues while Ladakh was totally neglected.
Slamming the state government for its "apathy" towards people of Ladakh, he said, "It has just been over a month since the devastating cloudburst and instead of focusing on rehabilitation of affected people, the government announced elections for the HDC.
People are not in a position to live their normal day-to-day life and they announced elections in October. It shows their apathy towards people of Ladakh".
Other LUFT leaders said that if the government was concerned about the people, then they could have extended the term of the HDC for a month till the situation improved and then held the polls.
Vowing to ensure that Ladakh gets Union Territory status, Rajnath Singh told the gathering that the BJP will raise the issue in both house of Parliament in the next session.
Coming down hard on the Omar Abdullah government and the UPA at the Centre, the former BJP president said the party will not accept any solution or package for Jammu and Kashmir unless issues concerning people of Ladakh was addressed.
"There is always talk of granting autonomy to Kashmir. The BJP vehemently opposes it. Does autonomy mean toeing a line that is different from that of the government? People of this region have been seeking a simple thing -- Union Territory status. Why is that not possible?" he said.
He also used the opportunity to attack Pakistan, saying that elements from across India's border were fuelling unrest in the Kashmir Valley by provoking separatists.
Singh also slammed China and said that country had issued stapled visas for people visiting Kashmir as they treated it as a "disputed" area.
"We say, the government of India should have given a fitting reply to this action by China by doing the same to people visiting Tibet and saying that we see it as a disputed area too," Singh said.
He accused China and Pakistan of forging a friendship that led the former to set up two nuclear reactors in Pakistan and added, "Our government did not even raise any objections though this was not under the purview of IAEA".