BIRATNAGAR, July 5: Nepali Congress (NC) has breached the CPN-UML 'red fort' comprising Letang, Sundarharaicha and Ratuwamai Municipalities as well as Kerabari Rural Municipality in Morang, in the second phase local polls. NC has also taken the lead in Belbari and Urlabari, another UML stronghold.
Considered to be UML turf, Morang district has always given it an overwhelming majority in elections, except this time.
The reasons for UML's defeat include discontent over candidate selections and boundary changes during the structuring of local units. There was also the greater togetherness shown by NC. Serious discontent over UML's candidate selections is writ large over the poll results.
The 10 wards under Kerabari Rural Municipality have 17,796 eligible voters. In the previous local level elections; CPN UML's Harka Man Tamang won twice in this region. The first Constituent Assembly (CA) elections saw CPN (Maoist Center)'s Gopi Achhami winning Kerabari, which falls under Morang constituency no.. 6. However, in the second CA elections, UML's Chandrabahadur Gurung won a majority.
NC's Rohit Karki has been elected as chief, beating his closest rival Nabin Thapa of UML by 240 votes. Karki amassed 5,416 votes while his opponent got 5,176. “Kerabari is a communist stronghold,” said Kisan Shahi, a lcoal political activist. Sharing his views with this daily, he said, “Despite winning in the last election, they have not been able to meet public wishes, and so voters have changed their minds.”
“Internal disputes and groupism within the party have led to the loss of Kerabari,” said an UML leader in Morang, adding, “There's an investigation ongoing to dissect this loss.”
In Sundarharaicha Municipality, NC's Shiva Prasad Dhakal won 16,821 votes against 15,853 for his nearest rival, Kedar Guragain of UML. Dhakal's win is seen as the breaching of a barrier in this constituency.Here too NC has benefitted from UML's internal rifts.
Sundarharaicha, the largest among the three municipalities, has 52,760 eligible voters.
The northern belt of this local unit was seen as a stronghold of the UML. However, during boundary delineations for local units, a southern belt was added, and this was favorable to NC. There was also a dispute when the candidate supported by an incumbent lawmaker did not get the ticket for the mayoral race.
Ratuwamai Municipality was another UML stronghold. The late UML leader Madan Bhandari practised his politics in Itahara, Sijuwa and Southa, which now fall under this municipality. The late Girija Prasad Koirala of NC also ran from this constituency and lost heavily during previous parliamentary elections. In the second CA elections, UML's Rishikesh Pokharel won from here. Taking this to be an UML pocket region, many in the party wanted to contest from here. And these aspirants were unhappy when others were given the party tickets .
NC's Rabin Rai won as mayor with 9,895 votes, beating his UML opponent Tekendra Pomu, who managed 8,100 votes. Osim Alam, UML leader from Morang, said, “Treachery among UML members has resulted in their losing this stronghold. Those who did not get the tickets are openly against those who did.”
Letang Municipality, located in the northern hills of Morang, has also seen the NC win against UML. NC's Shankar Rai was elected mayor with 6,961 votes, beating UML's Bhupendra Lawati, his closest rival , who managed to poll 6,656 votes.