KATHMANDU, Nov 23: With the poll date just two weeks away, constituency-1 of Kathmandu district looks headed for a three-way battle. While Nepali Congress (NC) veteran Prakash Man Singh is working hard to preserve his legacy in the constituency with a third consecutive win, Bibeksheel Sajha Party's Joint Coordinator Rabindra Mishra-- a media celebrity with innovative campaign strategies-- is posing a challenge, projecting his newly-constituted party as a harbinger of change.
And, there is the common candidate of the left alliance, Anil Sharma, who expects an easy time of it with the UML and Maoist Center votes behind him. There is an expectation that Singh's votes, which could be stolen by Mishra and NC rebel candidate Haribol Bhattarai, may further strengthen Sharma.
Although both local voters and those involved in the poll campaigns admit that it is hard to predict anything about the poll outcome, there is also a belief that Bibeksheel Sajha candidate Mishra may steal a section of the youths and neutral voters from the traditional vote banks of NC and the leftists.
While Kathmandu-1 has 42,430 registered voters, voter turnout in the recent local level election was less than 23,000. Of these, NC received 8,842 votes and the UML a total of 8,714. Maoist Center and Rastriya Prajatantra Party received 2,274 and 1,550 votes respectively.
Taking this arithmetic into account, NC has forged an electoral alliance with RPP and the UML-led left alliance has allied with the Maoist Center for the upcoming parliamentary and provincial assembly polls. Should all the parties maintain their respective votes intact, the NC-led alliance will fall short by nearly 600 votes.
As such, NC candidate Singh is not only seeking to keep the party's traditional vote bank intact but also nudging those who did not vote in the recent local polls to come out and vote this time. According to his close aide U P Lamichhane, Singh started his door-to-door campaign in the constituency since November 6.
Additionally, Singh is organizing gatherings of local intellectuals and the party's active leaders in each locality to bring out the vote for the NC in their respective neighborhoods. Although Lamichhane said both Mishra and leftist candidate Sharma are far from posing a serious competition, party insiders have an internal assessment that Sharma could be a close rival.
Leftist candidate Sharma for his part said victory is certain as he represents political stability in the country. "Our campaign is going very strong. People have told us they want delivery, not just promises. They seek a new face from this constituency," he said.
Although Sharma has not been much involved in public functions, he has been quietly engaged in door-to-door campaigning since a month back. His aides said they plan to further intensify their poll campaign after the conclusion of the first phase polls in the 32 hill districts on November 26.
While Singh and Sharma are seen as rivals, locals in the constituency said Bibeksheel Sajha Party candidate Mishra with his celebrity air is already a strong presence with his own door-to-door pitch and other public interaction programs with voters.
Mishra's key campaigner Raj Humagain said they have refrained from nailing any individual candidates as competitors. "Our competitors are the ideologies these candidates represent. Given the overwhelming response from voters in the constituency, we are confident we will attain victory," he said. "The fact that our competitors are already scared of our presence is testimony that we are set to win."