Bamdev Gautam’s Pokhara visit sparks by-poll debate

Published On: March 3, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 3: Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Bamdev Gautam on Saturday denied 'rumors' that he was considering running in a by-election for the parliamentary seat from Kaski which has fallen vacant with the sudden demise of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikari. Adhikari was among seven people killed in a helicopter accident in Taplejung on Wednesday.

Gautam, a veteran of left politics, has been eyeing a return to parliament ever since his political ambitions were put on hold by his defeat in the elections last year. He has proposed fielding a member of Adhikari's own family for the by-election.

“This is a lowly, malicious rumor and an attempt at character assassination against me,” Gautam said, dismissing his possible candidacy through a Facebook post on Saturday morning. He had attended Adhikari's cremation in Pokhara the previous day.

Gautam said that although his trip to Pokhara was to offer final tributes to a dear comrade it had been deliberately misinterpreted.

Gautam had earlier publicly expressed a desire to rejoin parliament. He stepped back from plans to content from a Kathmandu constituency --to that end getting incumbent Rambir Manandhar of NCP to vacate the parliamentary seat -- only following a public outcry over the shenanigans.

“I have never believed in capitalizing on sentiment following someone's death . I won't run from the constituency afflicted by comrade Rabindra Adhikari's death even if my party decides that I should. I will put in all my effort to providing the candidacy to a member of Adhikari's family.”

Gautam didn't enter into particulars, but those close to him say he was suggesting that Adhikari's widow Bidhya Bhattarai should get the by-election ticket. There have been multiple instances of wives succeeding their deceased husbands to give continuity to the latter's legacy. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari had entered politics after her husband Madan Bhandari died in a car accident.

Bhattarai, a lecturer at Ratna Rajya Campus, was active in student politics from the then CPN-UML. Both Adhikari and Bhattarai had taken Gautam's side when the latter announced a vertical split in the party in 1998. Adhikari was one of the few who remained close to Gautam until the very last.Meanwhile, NCP leaders said it was too early to discuss a candidacy for by-election . According to officials at the Election Commission , it could take six months to a year to hold a by-election.

Party leaders said, however, that finding a suitable candidate to fill the vacuum created by Adhikari's demise was an urgent priority for the party. The sudden death has left a big gap in Prime Minister KP Oli's team.

Although Adhikari held the culture, tourism and civil aviation portfolio, one of the least glamorous, he had established himself as one of the most visible faces of the government through a series of initiatives in aviation and tourism and big infrastructure projects which had been languishing for years.

“He was able to demonstrate some visible results in one year. The party faces an urgent need to find someone to step into his shoes ,” said one NCP leader.

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