Lekhak, Bhatta face off in Kanchanpur-3

Mahendra Nagar, November 29

Kanchanpur Constituency No 3 is set to witness stiff competition between Ramesh Lekhak of Nepali Congress and Dipak Prakash Bhatta of the left alliance for parliamentary seat.

Both contenders claimed they took initiative to launch projects such as construction of a four-lane concrete bridge over the Mahakali River and a dry-port in at Dodhara-Chandani Municipality and reopening of the Majhgaun airport in the district.

Lekhak claimed his efforts had resulted in construction of structures of the bridge over the MahaKali River. On the other hand, Bhatta maintained that the budget for the bridge was allocated by the UML-led government.

Resettlement of 2,476 families displaced by Shuklaphanta Wild Life Reserve is another major election agenda and both blame the other for creating a ‘mess’ in resolving the issue. While Lekhak has criticised UML for ‘provoking locals unnecessarily’, Bhatta has accused the NC of distributing land plots to the displaced, haphazardly.

Displaced people said they would vote for the candidate who can assure 10 kattha land for each of the displaced families for resettlement. The SPWLR has, however, remained unwilling to meet the locals’ demand.

“Sometimes we are told to accept a meagre sum of money, while other times the wildlife reserve authority says it can only give five kattha land,” said Narendra Awasti, a member of one of the displaced families. “Officials from the reserve are also questioning the number of displaced families and saying they can give compensatory land to 1,400 families only,” he added.

Awasti also said during every election after 2001, candidates came to them seeking votes with the assurance that displaced households would get land. “But we have not received any compensatory land yet,” he added.

Development of Kachanpur as a tri-border point and construction of a dry port are other major election agenda of candidates. Both the top contenders have pledged to upgrade the Kanchanpur-Tinkar road which connects the district with the Chinese border point of Taklakot through Darchula. The candidates have also expressed commitment to reoperate the airport and enhance services at Mahakali Zonal Hospital.

“The hospital’s services are a far cry from the standards of a zonal hospital’. Till now, the hospital has only been referring patients to other cities or Kathmandu for treatment,” said Om Basnet, a lcoal.

Voters of Dodhara-Chandani villages in the south of the district have demanded basic infrastructure such as road, drinking water and irrigation.

Talking to this scribe, local Santu Sunar said the village was electrified just eight months ago and other basic facilities were lacking. Bhim Josi, a local trader, said there would be neck-and-neck competition between Lekhak and Bhatta.

Lekhak is considered a seasoned leader with direct access to the centre, while Bhatta has the image of a scholar with a PhD degree.