Blasts mar poll rallies addressed by PM Deuba, Pandit

Published On: November 29, 2017 06:25 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Poll security likely to cost domr Rs 20 billion but security agencies still cite lack of resources  

KATHMANDU, Nov 29: Fears of poll-related violence increased on Tuesday after three separate election rallies including one attended by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba were marred by the setting off of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). 

At least eight people were injured in Tulsipur-5 of Dang district when an IED was hurled by two men on motorcycle some 500 meters from an election rally being addressed by Deuba. 

The injured, who include a temporary policeman, are undergoing treatment, said SP Durga Singh, Dang district police chief. 

Earlier in the day, poll campaigns of the left alliance in Lalitpur and in Morang district in eastern Nepal  were left in tatters after similar explosions were set off. 

UML leader and former minister Lal Babu Pandit was forced to call off an election rally in Budi Ganga Rural Municipality, Morang after an IED was detonated. No one was injured in the incident. A similar blast occurred at a poll campaign of the left alliance at Lagankhel, Lalitpur. 

Tuesday's blasts are the latest in a string of violent physical attacks apparently targeting the poll campaigns. A series of deadly blasts had occurred in the run-up to the first phase parliamentary and provincial assembly polls also. 

The Election Commission said 65 percent voter turnout was recorded in the first phase elections held on November 26.  The ongoing violence is likely to discourage people from show up at polling stations for the second phase. 

Political leaders targetted by forces opposed to the polls include UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Ram Sharan Mahat, Barshaman Pun, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Sherdhan Rai, Janardan Sharma and former speaker Onsari Gharti. 

With the increase in poll-related violence, many are calling on the security agencies to take added measures to ensure an environment for free and fair elections.  In a statement,  Amnesty International, the human rights group, urged Nepali authorities to "protect the well-being and safety of all people" during the polls.  

Nepal has not seen poll-related violence on this scale since the end of the Maoist armed insurgency. The attacks have shown inadequacies in the three-layer security ring clamped by Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force and the Nepal Army.  

Security agencies have been citing lack of resources and manpower although the government has already allocated Rs 10 billion for poll security. EC officials estimate that it is likely to cost an additional Rs 10 billion. 

Despite the lapses in poll security, Babishwor Pandey, information officer at the Home Ministry, said that there would be no changes in current plans. He, however, said that more boots would be put on the ground for quick response. 

Though no group has taken responsibility for the attacks, poll-bound districts in both the hills and tarai plains are expected to face a challenge from outfits like the Netra Bikram Chand-led CPN and other armed underground groups. Police said they have arrested more than 200 protesters from the Chand group, which has boycotted the polls. 

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