KATHMANDU, Oct 23: Several political heavyweights look set to face each other in the first phase of parliamentary and provincial elections adding an interesting new dimension to the polls which are shaping up to be a fierce competition between leftist and rightist forces.
The first phase of elections being held in 32 districts on November 26, will elect 37 representatives for national assembly and 74 representatives for provincial assemblies.
A total of 320 candidates have filed their candidacies for parliamentary elections, while 482 candidates have filed their candidacies for the provincial polls, said Election Commission (EC) Spokesperson Nawaraj Dhakal.
The pre-poll alliances among parties might be the reason behind the significantly low number of candidates, said EC officials. More than 52 parties have submitted their lists of candidates under the proportional representation category.
The Nepali Congress (NC)-led democratic alliance and the CPN-UML-led left alliance have fielded consensus candidates in majority of constituencies making the historic polls all the more interesting and unpredictable.
While the top leaders have been nominated for the federal parliament, seats for the provincial assemblies have been given to second-rung leaders.
Many high profile leaders ranging from former prime ministers to party chairmen have fielded candidacies for the central parliament. In some constituencies, parties have fielded two equally powerful candidates against each other.
CPN (Maoist Center) has fielded its vice chairman Narayankaji Shrestha against former Prime Minister and Naya Shakti Coordinator Baburam Bhattarai in Gorkha-1. Bhattarai was the second-in-command of the CPN (Maoist Center) until he deserted the former rebel party to form Naya Shakti Nepal.
Though it’s still too early to say who will win, leaders said this election will be decisive for the political survival of both leaders.
“Few leaders had suggested them that one of them should backtrack. But it couldn’t happen. It will be an election for survival for them,” said a Maoist leader.
Even as Gorkha-1 dominated the candidacy nomination headlines on Sunday, Bhattarai and Shrestha are among a long list of powerful leaders contesting against each other.
In Sindhupalchowk-2, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Democratic Chairman Pashupati Shumsher Rana will face UML’s Sher Bahadur Tamang. Tamang, who defeated Rana in the second Constituent Assembly election, is well connected on the ground.
The mid western district of Jajarkot is another seat to watch out where the Maoist Center has fielded Shakti Bahadur Basnet against NC’s Rajeev Bikram Shah.
Similarly, NC leader and six-time finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat will face Hit Bahadur Tamang of CPN (Maoist Center) in Nuwakot-1. Tamang, who has been nominated as the common candidate of the UML-led left alliance, is expected to pose a strong challenge to Mahat to retain the seat.
In Nuwakot-2, NC has fielded Arjun Narsingh KC against Narayan Prasad Khatiwada of UML. Though not as famous as KC in the national politics, Khatiwada is a well known leader at the district level. The UML-led left and NC-led democratic alliances have respectively fielded Janardan Sharma and Bir Bahadur Oli in Rukum-west, Dev Gurung and Dil Bahadur Gharti in Lamjung, Palten Gurung and Tek Bahadur Gurung in Manang, Hari Adhikari and Chin Kaji Shrestha in Gorkha-2, Barsha Man Pun of CPN (Maoist Ccenter) and Amar Singh Pun for the federal parliament.
Similarly, Maoist Center leader Agni Sapkota (Sindhupalchok-1) and CPN (UML) secretary Yogesh Bhattarai (Taplejung) from the left alliance will face Mohan Bahadur Basnet and Keshav Prasad Dahal of the democratic alliance.
Several well-known names have chosen provincial assembly over the federal parliament. They include Rajendra Rai, Sherdhan Rai, Prithvi Subba Gurung, Romi Gauchan Thakali, Rajendra Pandey, Ajamber Kangmang Rai, Salikram Jammerkattel. While most of them were forced to contest the provincial elections, others knowingly chose the provincial polls hoping to be the chief ministerial candidates of their parties.
“Most of the leaders themselves proposed to contest the provincial polls. In few cases, the party had to intervene after selecting candidates became tough,” said CPN (Maoist Center) spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.