Tough battle on the cards for Congress, left alliance in a divided electorate

Kathmandu, November 15

The pre-election atmosphere is fully charged in Bhaktapur constituency-2 with locals divided in support for their favourite candidates in the upcoming polls.

The major competition here is between the Nepali Congress’ Damannath Dhungana, who was speaker of the Parliament from 1991 to 1994, and the CPN-UML’s youth leader Mahesh Basnet, who is also a former industry minister.

The poll battle here would be interesting as the UML has never won parliamentary seat from the constituency since 1991, while the NC has won in three out of five elections after the restoration of democracy. The UML, however, bagged mayoral positions in Madhyapur Thimi Municipality and Suryabinayak Municipality in the recently held local level elections, securing around 5,000 more votes than NC.

Though Bhaktapur is the smallest district in Nepal, constituency-2 had the highest number of voters in 2013 Constituent Assembly elections. Locals here are politically divided. Winning the trust of people living in new residential areas inhabited mostly by people from outside the Valley will be key to winning the elections in the constituency.

Earlier, it was thought that the two-time winner Nepal Workers and Peasants Party could be a game-changer, but the party refused to support a candidate from any other party. The party has fielded Anuradha Thapa Magar for the parliamentary elections from the constituency.

Basnet, who is the left alliance’s candidate, may get an advantage of 3,000 votes secured by the CPN-Maoist Centre in the second Constituent Assembly election. But, that alone does not seem to help him much as the NC had secured 5,000 more votes than the UML in the same election.

Locals of Katunje and Sano Thimi said the NC had a strong support base in the area. Rameshower Wagle of Sano Thimi said, “Even when NC was defeated in all the constituencies in Kathmandu Valley in the 1991 election, the party won in our area. The NC is unlikely to lose elections here.”

When told that the NC had fielded an outsider from the constituency, Santa Hada, of Thimi said, “We respect the party’s decision. Besides, the candidate is a scholar and a visionary. There is nothing called an outsider in an open society. Even UML senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and CPN-MC Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal have filed their candidacies from areas they don’t belong to.”

Similarly, locals at Sirutar and Balkot said they would vote for UML candidate Basnet because of his willingness to work for the development of the area. Chandan Sharma, 32, of Sirutar said, “We don’t want locals to represent our voice in the government. We will vote for the UML and send a youth representative to the Parliament.”

Youths in Kaushaltar and Lokanthali, however, said they would not support regular candidates. Prabal Shrestha, 22, of Kaushaltar said, “We are tired of looking at old faces. I think I will vote for Bibeksheel Sajha Party, even if I don’t know who the candidates are.”

NC’s Dhungana has pledged to develop Bhaktapur as a tourist hub and create job opportunities for youths. Similarly, UML’s candidate Basnet has promised to develop Hanumante and Manahara corridors.