Where people can’t cast ballots freely

Bajura, November 22

There are 11 voting stations in remote Bajura district where voters have, historically, cast their ballots under certain compulsion or pressure from political parties, rather than their own discretion.

According to civil society member Sher Bahadur Shahi, booth capturing is a norm in certain polling stations of the region. “We have a few voting stations where in the past one party or the other has captured booths by preventing supporters of the rival party from casting votes or by casting fake ballots,” he said.

Looking back on past election results, there are a few voting stations where all votes were cast for a single political party. While Nepali Congress has secured all votes cast at Ghatala Primary School voting centre in Budhinanda Municipality-7, CPN-UML has bagged hundred per cent votes cast at Satya Secondary School voting station in Budhinanda-10 in the past.

Polling stations at Malika and Mashteshwori secondary schools are likely to witness a similar situation this time, it is said.

“There were times when voters lined up for hours to vote, but some rogue party cadres would snatch the ballot papers and stamp them. Likewise,voters were driven away from polling stations to rig the vote,” shared Khadkaraj Joshi, a local teacher from Budhiganga Municipality. “A lot of fake votes are cast in these polling stations and that will certainly affect overall election results,” he said.

Informal Sector Service Centre district representative Padam Bahadur Singh conceded that vote rigging and booth capture had taken place at some places. “It is possible that election results here will swing in favour of political parties involved in booth capturing,” he said.

As per the latest national census, Dalits, who make up 24 per cent of the total population in the district, are most prone to undue pressure from political parties while exercising their enfranchisement rights.

Nande Luwar, a local of Swamikartik Rural Municipality-3, Jukot, said he has never got to vote using his discretion till now. “I voted in many elections in the past but never got to vote of my free will,” he said, adding that he would vote for the candidate as dictated by members of the so-called upper castes.

The district is home to 1,800 freed haliyas (tillers), and they, too, will vote following ‘orders of their masters’. “We have been asking our masters for permission even to sell a chick, so, how can we think of voting without asking them first? “ wondered Gangaram Nepali, a local of Bandhu.