November 14, 2017 04:00 AM NPT
By: Daman Rai
KHOTANG, Nov 14: Nine major and minor political parties have fielded their candidates for the upcoming parliamentary and provincial elections in Okhaldhunga district, indicating that the poll battles will be fierce.
The ruling Nepali Congress (NC), the left alliance comprising CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), CPN-ML, Rastriya Janamorcha, Mangol National Organization, among others, are vying for election glory. Dozens of candidates from these parties are currently campaigning to woo voters.
However, the candidates from the left alliance and the NC-led 'democratic' alliance stand out as they represent the country's biggest parties. They are the most probable winners of the election though the competition is expected to be very tough.
NC has fielded Ram Hari Khatiwada, who is challenged by left alliance's Yagya Raj Sunuwar of UML. Locals have high hopes from both the candidates of the parliamentary elections.
As part of the election campaign, both of them have been working full-fledged on door-to-door election campaigns to woo voters. The district has one municipality and seven rural municipalities.
In the provincial level elections, NC has fielded Mitresh Dahal in constituency 1 (a) and Pradeep Sunar in constituency 1 (b). Similarly, the left alliance has fielded UML's Ambir Bahadur Gurung in constituency 1 (a) and Maoist Center leader Mohan Khadka in constituency 1 (b).
NC considers the district as its traditional fortress. However, CPN (Maoist Center) had broken the traditional democratic fortress in the first Constitution Assembly (CA) elections of 2008 by securing victories in both the constituencies. However, the party failed to repeat the success in the second CA elections of 2013.
The candidates representing NC and the left alliance have similar level of influence in the constituencies. This has triggered much anticipation. Talks about who might win the elections have dominated discussions at teashops and other public areas.
However, there are dissatisfied groups from both NC and the left alliance. FSFN is looking for ways to woo those groups and pull voters to their side. The party is hopeful that they would get support from the disgruntled voters of Maoist Center claiming that the Maoist Center has abandoned its conflict-era cases and vision and now FSFN is carrying them forward.
The district has a total of 102,250 registered voters. In the recently concluded local elections, NC had won 38 wards out of the 75 total while UML had won 26 wards and Maoist Center had won the remaining 11 wards.
The combined force of UML and Maoist Center is expected to give a tough challenge to NC. This also indicates that the electoral contest is going to very intense in the district.
While NC faces challenge from its rebel candidates, the relationship between UML and Maoist Center is not very good in the district due to bitter past incidents and confrontations.
Maoist Center has to make sure that its cadres are willing to give their votes to UML candidates in the upcoming elections, observers said. The parliamentary and provincial elections in the district are scheduled for November 26.