Three-way clash looms large in Kathmandu-1

Kathmandu, November 15

Kathmandu Constituency No 1 is all set for a three-way battle in the parliamentary elections slated for December 7.

Senior Nepali Congress leader Prakash Man Singh, Anil Sharma of the left alliance and Rabindra Mishra of Bibeksheel Sajha Party are the major contenders in the parliamentary election from the constituency.

Singh, a well-known face in Nepal’s politics, had won Constituent Assembly elections on both occasions, in 2008 and 2013 from the same constituency. In contrast, Sharma, who comes from student politics, and Mishra, a former journalist, are fresh candidates in the constituency.

Despite a significant number of swing votes, the constituency is regarded as an NC stronghold. However, Singh is likely to face stiff competition from Mishra owing to his popularity as a BBC journalist and his party Bibeksheel Sajha’s large fan following, and also due to the left alliance’s strong organisational base, say local voters.

Sharma has not come into the limelight as Singh and Mishra, and this has prompted some locals even to rule him out of the poll contention. However, others hold the view that communist parties’ organisational strength and their voter base should not be undermined, and therefore even Sharma could be a possible winner.

“As communist parties have strong organisational base, UML has the ability to attract voters to polling booths,” said Damodar Chaulagain, 52, a resident of Bhimsengola Marg, New Baneshwor.

On the other hand, Mishra’s Bibeksheel Sajha Party is a favourite mainly among youths, according to Chulagain, and thus is likely to affect a large portion of votes that could go to both the NC and the left alliance. He said, “40 per cent votes here are swing votes, which could prove decisive,” adding that it is still too early to predict which candidates is ahead in the constituency.

Another local, requesting anonymity, said, “The situation here is so unpredictable that one day Singh seems to be the front-runner, while another day the other two look to be ahead.” According to her, this has perplexed her and she is still undecided whom to vote for.

According to Election Commission data, there are 42,000 registered voters in the constituency. But Chaulagain said the number of real voters is only around 32,000 as many registered voters are not in the country. “So if a candidate garners more than 9,000 votes, he could be the winner,” he deduced.

Like her, most local voters say they are yet to decide which way their vote will go.

Yam Basnet, 42, from Katyayani Chowk said he would consider candidates and their backgrounds rather than their party manifestos before making his decision.

In the CA election held in 2013, Singh had secured 15,138 votes (38.65 percent) to become the winner, while his closest rival Renu Dahal of the CPN-MC had secured 4,064 votes (10.38 percent). Bharat Mani Jangam of Rastriya Prajatantra Party had finished third securing 3,732 votes and in the fourth place was the UML’s Bidhya Upadhyaya Neupane with 3,501 votes.

During election, Bibeksheel Sajha Party did not in exist. However, the party was able to leave a significant impression in the recently held local level elections. Ranju Darshana and Kishor Thapa, mayoral candidates for Kathmandu Metropolitan City from Bibeksheel Party and Shajha Party respectively before their unification, had secured a combined 7,600 votes in this constituency, while NC’s Raju Raj Joshi had secured 6,800 votes. Bidhya Sundar Shakya from the UML eventually won the election.