Left alliance poised to make a clean sweep in Jhapa?

Birtamode (Jhapa), Nov 17

Reinforced by the support of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the left alliance forged by the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre, is eyeing a clean sweep in Jhapa, while the Nepali Congress faces an ‘uphill battle’ in the upcoming parliamentary polls slated for December 7.

Political heavyweights — the UML’s KP Sharma Oli, the NC’s Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Bishwa Prakash Sharma and the RPP’s Rajendra Lingden — are contesting the parliamentary elections from the district, which has five electoral constituencies.

While Sharma is contesting against CPN-MC’s Ram Karki in Constituency No 1, Sitaula is facing Lingden in Jhapa-3, NC’s district president Uddhav Thapa and UML’s Pavitra Niraula Kharel are eyeing parliamentary membership from Jhapa-2, the left alliance’s common candidate LP Sanwa is battling NC’s Dev Man Theve in Jhapa-4, and Oli is vying against the NC’s Khagendra Adhikari.

The electoral battle in Jhapa is especially interesting because NC is going it all alone here, as RPP, which is NC’s ally in the rest of the country, has aligned itself with the left alliance in the district. The left alliance will support Lingden in Jhapa-3, while RPP will support the left alliance in all other constituencies in the district. The RPP-NC alliance could not be forged in the district, as Sitaula decided to file his nomination from Jhapa-3 against the previous agreement that the NC will leave the constituency for Lingden.

“It will be an uphill battle for NC in the district,” said local political analyst Chandra Bhandari, adding that intra-party tussle will make it tougher for NC in the district. “The sad part is that NC has yet to begin its poll campaign, while the two left parties have been addressing grievances of their cadres.”

Bhandari, however, predicted a neck-and-neck race in Jhapa-1 and Jhapa-3, where NC heavyweights Sharma and Sitaula are running against Karki and Lingden, respectively.

NC district president Thapa agreed that the party would face a tough challenge from the left alliance backed by the RPP, but added that it was ‘effectively NC vs UML in the district’. “Given poor organisational bases of CPN-MC and RPP, it’s effectively NC vs UML here,” he said. “We are in a very comfortable position in four constituencies except for the one from where Oli is contesting.”

Thapa said NC’s candidates were also strong and favoured locally and had the capacity to win the elections on their own. He thanked the communist parties for forging an alliance that encouraged NC to sort out any possible intra-party differences and forge unity to face the challenge. “I agree that intra-party feuds have hampered NC in the past. But everything has been sorted out now and we are united, thanks to the left alliance,” he said.

UML district president Chintan Pathak, however, said the biggest basis for the left alliance to sweep the polls was the recently held local-level elections. In the civic polls, UML won 491 of the 623 local seats in the district, while the NC won 191 seats. The rest went to CPN-MC and RPP. Of the 15 local units, seven went to UML, while NC and RPP bagged five and three seats, respectively.

“This suggests that we are very strong here,” said Pathak, adding that even the ‘five to 10 per cent’ swing votes in the district would come to the left alliance, given how the local people were ‘fed up with NC’s policies, both national and local’. “To tell you the truth, we would have won even if we had gone it alone, but since the CPN-MC and the RPP have come on board, it’s no contest here.”

However, analyst Bhandai said the local-level election results could not be a strong base to make any prediction, given the alliance between parties had created confusion among voters. There is every possibility that many

voters will not agree with the parties’ decisions. “However, the left parties seem to be able to convince their cadres and staunch supporters to abide by the party’s decision,” he said.