KATHMANDU, Nov 28: As many as three dozen political leaders from NC, UML and the CPN (Maoist Center) have presented themselves as chief ministerial hopefuls for the seven federal provinces although the political parties have refrained from naming their candidates.
While a top gun from one of the three major parties looks certain to be the next prime minister regardless of which party wins the parliamentary elections, the parties are likely to face a big challenge picking the chief ministers because of multiple contenders.
The hopefuls include faces well known in national politics as well as lower rung individuals.
There is huge interest in the chief ministerial position as the head of the provincial government is expected to be the second most coveted position after the prime minister due to the vast amount of power and resources at the disposal of the incumbent. Unlike central governments, the provincial governments are likely to be more stable, providing the chief ministers the time to see their agenda through.
The major parties were preparing to declare their chief ministerial candidates prior to the elections in order to consolidate their support base and avoid possible conflicts down the road. Declaring candidates prior to the elections would also have made it easier for voters to choose their chief ministers.
But not a single party has announced its chief ministerial candidates, fearing internal discord and backstabbing among multiple aspirants.
Not taking a call on probable chief ministers now might give party leaders some much-needed peace before the elections. But the selection is likely to be even more difficult afterward.
Maoist Center spokesperson Pampha Bhusal, however, said her party is more or less decided on future chief ministers in provinces where it has chances of forming the governments.
"Many leaders across party lines have long been projecting themselves as hopefuls after receiving the green signal from the party. I think the parties are more or less decided on the names," said Bhusal, although she refused to divulge further details.
“Since the chief ministers would be selected from among leaders elected from the same region, it won't be difficult to take a call. But there could be some problem in areas where there are two equally powerful hopefuls.”
UML spokesperson Yogesh Bhattarai said that chief ministers would be picked through competition among the elected representatives. He said the decision would be taken after proper consultations with the lower-level organizations.
NC leaders said that the party would take appropriate decisions once the election results are out. They said there will be relatively less competition as very few central leaders are in the race to become chief ministers.
Many influential leaders including former ministers from both the NC-led and leftist alliances have chosen to try for the provincial assemblies in hopes of getting the chief ministerial berth. Some probable chief ministerial candidates from the UML-Maoist led left alliance include Sher Dhan Rai and Bhim Acharya (in Province 1) , Nagendra Chaudhary, Satya Narayan Mandal and Gajat Yadav (Province 2), Rajendra Pandey, Astha Laxmi Shakya, Pashupati Chaulagain, Sanu Shrestha and Arun Nepal (province 3) , Prithvi Subba Gurung and Kiran Gurung (Province 4), Baijya Nath Chaudhary and Shankar Pokherel (Province 5) , Kul Prasad KC, Prakash Jwala and Yamlal Kandel (Province 6) , and Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, Satya Pahadi, and Karna Bahadur Thapa (Province 7).
There is an equally high number of chief ministerial hopeful from the NC-led alliance. Since very few national-level politicians have fielded candidacy for provincial assembly tickets, younger faces active at lower levels are likely to get a chance. Some chief ministerial hopefuls include Rajiv Koirala, Angelu Sherpa, Bidur Basnet, Lila Bokhim and Mahanor Narayan Shrestha (in Province 1), Ram Saroj Yadav, Ganesh Mandal, Ranjit Karna, Chandra Mohan Yadav, Subash Chandra Yadav and Prem Kishore Yadav (Province 2), Kanchan Chandra Bade, Jagadish Narshing KC, Dinesh Koirala, Indra Baniya and Lokesh Dhakal (Province 3), Govinda Bhattarai, Pradip Poudel and Jivan Pariyar (Province 4), Dilli Bahadur Chaudhary, Kamal Kishore Ghimire and Birendra Kumar Kanaudiya (Province 5), Jivan Bahadur Shahi and Tapta Bahadur Bista (Province 6), and Raghuraj Bhatta, Karna Bahadur Malla and Bharat Bahadur Khadka (Province 7).
In addition to the three major parties, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), which have forged an alliance, have also been seen as strong contenders for chief minister in Province 2. Neither of the two parties has announced their probable name for the head of the provincial government.
"A suitable candidate will be picked through consensus if we win a majority and form the provincial government," said FSFN Chairman Upendra Yadav.