KATHMANDU, Nov 4: While filing candidacy in the 128 electoral constituencies for parliament, the two major political alliances have fielded only 16 women candidates for the December 7 second phase polls.
Nine women are in the direct election race from the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) alliance, which is less than 12 percent of the total alliance candidates. Similarly the Nepali Congress (NC)-led alliance has seven women candidates, all from NC, which comes to less than 9 percent of the total candidates from that alliance.
Among these 16, most are facing either senior political leaders or other powerful figures. Women leaders are facing other woman leaders in only one constituency, Kailali-1.
Manju Kumari Chaudhary of UML is facing former minister and influential NC leader Narayan Khadka in Duaypur-1. Former state minister Chaudhary is challenging the long-time powerful politician in an area that is under his iron grip.
Similarly, Bhagawati Chaudhary of UML is contesting against Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar of NC in Sunsari-3. The Constituent Assembly (CA) election in 2013 had witnessed a neck and neck race between the UML’s alternative central committee member and six-time former deputy prime minister Gachchhadar.
Physical Infrastructure State Minister Sita Gurung is facing Bhawani Khapung of UML in Tehrathum. Khapung was a directly elected lawmaker from the same district in the last polls.
Province 1 is witnessing a race between UML leader Pabitra Niroula Kharel and local NC leader Uddab Thapa in Jhapa-2.
NC woman leader Kiran Yadav is challenging member of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal Presidium Sharat Singh Bhandari in Mahottari-2. Former local development minister and Maoist leader Urmila Aryal is contesting against Ramesh Rijal of NC in Parsa-4. Rijal has emerged victorious from the district in most polls he has contested.
Noted NC woman leader Mahalaxmi Upadhyaya (Dina) and noted former UML parliamentarian Birodh Khatiwada are in the poll race in Makawanpur-2. Poverty Alleviation Minister from NC Ambika Basnet is facing district coordinator of UML Krishna Rai in Kathmandu-3.
Likewise, former general administration minister Pampha Bhusal of the Maoist Center is challenging Madan Kumar Amatya of NC in Lalitpur-3. Amatya had emerged victorious in the constituency in the last polls.
UML’s former lawmaker and former elected district chief of the party Padma Aryal is posing a challenge against veteran NC leader Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha in Syangja-2.
Former lawmaker Sushila Chaudhary of NC is competing against UML youth leader Metmani Chaudhary in Dang-1. Former lawmaker and senior leader of Rastriya Janamorcha Party Durga Paudel is contesting against Govinda Pokharel of NC in Pyuthan. Paudel is the wife of veteran communist leader Mohan Bikram Singh and her rival is a former CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority and former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission.
Kailali-1 is witnessing a race between two women leaders for the first time. NC’s former lawmaker and whip Ishwari Neupane and UML’s former lawmaker Madan Kumari Shah (Garima) are facing each other in the district.
Influential woman leader Arjoo Deuba, the wife of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, is contesting from Kailali-5 against UML’s Naradmuni Rana Tharu. Maoist former student leader Bina Magar, who is the daughter-in-law of Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has filed candidacy from Kanchanpur-1, where NC has fielded Diwan Singh Bista.
While 1,742 candidates are contesting for the elections to parliament, the number of women candidates is just 126, according to the Election Commission. Women leaders contesting parliament under the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system constitute just 7.23 percent, according to the election body.
Most women candidates under First-Past-the-Post are in Province-1 and Province 7. These two provinces have four women candidates each in the parliamentary race. Major political parties have not fielded any woman candidate in Province-6 for the second phase polls.
Three women leaders are contesting the FPTP poll from Province-3 while Province 2 and Province-5 have two each and Province-4 has one woman candidate for the parliamentary race.