RUPANDEHI/ KAPILVASTU, June 29: Madhesi voters in all districts of the tarai participated in the local polls with a lot of enthusiasm despite a series of anti-election campaigns and repeated calls by the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) to boycott the polls.
Polling officers working on the ground said up to 80 percent voter turnout was recorded in Madhesi-majority areas in districts like Kapilbastu, Rupendehi, Morang and Sunsari.
There is a significant presence of Madhesi population in these districts. It is, however, important to note that RJPN's support base is limited even within the Madhesi constituencies.
"Our initial estimate suggests the voter turnout to be above 80 percent in this particular rural municipality. The turnout is more than what we were initially expecting," Manoj Gaire, polling officer at Kotimai Rural Municipality of Rupendehi told Republica.
Voters cast their votes with similar enthusiasm in other Madhesi-dominant local units including Sammari Mai, Marchwari Mai and Maya Devi rural municipalities and Lumbini Danskritik Municipality.
Stunned by the enthusiasm shown by voters, RJPN local leaders were quick to note that the party's central leadership made a mistake.
"The party did not understand the public mood. The party should take decision after analyzing the wish of the people," said RJPN mayoral candidate for Kothi Mai Rural Municipality Bal Kirshna Tripathi.
Notwithstanding RJPN's official decision to boycott the polls, some of the party's local leaders including Tripathi had fielded candidacy as independents. Tripathi said that the candidates like him could have campaigned better had the party taken right decision right from the beginning.
Similarly, Kapilbastu, a district with significant Madhesi population, witnessed around 75 percent voter turnout. The district also has a significant Muslim and Dalit voters.
"We found people really excited to elect their representatives," said Chief District Officer of Kapilbastu Bishu Dhakal. The voter turnout was above 70 percent in districts like Morang and Sunsari of Province 1, according to election officers. The two districts have around 40 percent Madhesi voters of whom many are committed cadres of major parties and regional parties like Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and Nepal Loktantrik Forum.
Even some senior RJPN leaders were quick to acknowledge that the party had committed blunder by boycotting polls. RJPN Chairman Mahendra Raya Yadav on Wednesday said that the party would not repeat the mistake in third phase.
"We will take part in third phase of local elections and plan accordingly," Yadav said during an interaction at Reporter's Club on Wednesday.