ILAM, July 6: A few days before the second phase of local polls, Nepali Congress' (NC) Ilam district Secretary Khagendra Dewan claimed that his party would sweep all ten local units of the district. His prediction didn't materialize as the result was exactly the opposite of what they were expecting.
It is common for any leader to say they will win the polls but in Dewan's case it was a little bit different. Dewan was a strong contender for mayor's post in Ilam Municipality. But he did not get the ticket. He however accepted the party's decision and started campaigning for the polls. But when the party made a last-minute announcement of candidacy of NC district president Himalaya Karmacharya, who had lost the last local polls and CA elections, then Dewan along with other activists of NC started speculating that they were going to lose this election.
NC's central committee member as well as lawmaker Sujata Pariyar and another district Secretary Niroj Khadgi had earlier made the same statement as Dewan that they would win in all units.
CPN-UML's Mahesh Basnet won the mayor's race in Illam Municipality securing 11,033 votes defeating NC's Himalaya Karmacharya, who managed 9,268 votes
After the results, Karmacharya said, "Congress was expected to win in all local units of Ilam but the results show there is discontentment within the NC."
He also accepted the fact that the rift within the party while finalizing the candidates was noticed by the public. "NC should seriously review the results of this constituency because the results have been completely opposite to our expectations."
The intra-party rift was not only seen in Ilam Municipality but also in majority of other constituencies where physical confrontation and disagreement among NC representatives regarding candidacy was common.
A similar problem was seen in Suryadaya Municipality. NC's local committee in constituency no 1 had recommended regional President Durga Prasad Baral to run for mayor. However, the central committee removed Baral and gave the ticket to Prem Lal Rai. This prompted Baral along with 15 party representatives to resign from their posts.
UML's Rana Bahadur Rai secured 12,919 votes to win the post of mayor defeating NC's Rai, who managed 10,329 votes. Baral says that internal disputes and short preparation led to the loss in this municipality.
Sandakpur Rural Municipality was considered a definite stronghold of NC. All major political parties had expected NC to win here especially after Sulubung, Mayimjhuwa and Maipokhari villages were integrated into this rural municipality. NC had also managed to win here in both previous CA elections as well.
The result was very embarrassing for NC as it did not manage to win even a single post of ward chairman. UML's Uday Rai became the chief securing 4,529 votes defeating NC's Devendra Subedi who managed 2,354 votes. UML swept four out of five wards in the rural municipality while CPN Maoists Center managed to secure one ward chairperson with UML bagging the other posts.
Subedi said, "We were sure that we were going to win. But I do not feel that my party activists did not vote for me. The opposition must have influenced some neutral voters."
For CPN-UML as well, it was also not the result they were expecting in some constituencies in Ilam. In the previous local elections, it had managed to win 45 seats in VDCs and one municipality here. Its objective was to win eight local units in this constituency.
In Rong Rural Municipality, NC's Samsher Rai got elected as chief defeating UML's Brihaspati Khatiwada by 310 votes. "Ethnic vote as well as lack of decision making in selecting the candidate has cost us the election in Rong," said UML district chief Ram Rana, adding, "In Mangsebung, other parties had formed a coalition which is why we lost the post of chief."
UML's district committee member Narendra Limbu was in line to get the ticket to run for chief in Fakfokthum Rural Municipality but was denied the ticket after he was found to have gone against the party's interest. The party then decided to give the ticket to Dipendra Khanal who lost to NC's Ram Kumar Shrestha.
In ward no 8 of Ilam Municipality, there was some physical confrontation among the UML cadres regarding the candidacy of ward chairperson. They lost that post but managed to win other posts.
Among the four municipalities and six rural municipalities of Ilam, CPN-UML managed to win four posts of mayor, four deputy mayoral posts, three ward chairs and five deputy chiefs of wards. Meanwhile, NC only bagged the posts of three ward chief and one deputy chief. Among the total 81 wards of the district, UML won 44 posts; NC won 16 while Sanghiya Loktantrik Rastriya Manch and Rastriya Janamukti Party managed to win one ward chair each. There were mixed panel winners in the remaining 19 wards among which NC won 15, UML won 3 and CPN (Maoist Center) won one ward chairperson.