-Bam Dev Gautam not to contest
-Party Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Beduram Bhusal included in candidates list
-Finance Minister Khatiwada not included
KATHMANDU, Jan 4: Ahead of elections for National Assembly members slated for January 23, the ruling Nepal Communist Party is fielding 16 candidates.
The Election Commission is holding the elections on January 23 to elect 18 upper house members. The terms of 19 incumbent members are expiring on March 3.
Of this total, 18 members will be elected from the political parties. As per the constitution, the president will nominate one member on her own.
Previously, the upper house members were elected through a single transferable voting system. Out of the 59 seats in the upper house, NCP had then secured 42 seats, including three nominated by the president.
Among the 59 members, 19 have a tenure of two years, 20 have four-year tenures and the rest have six years, according to upper house regulations.
Among the 19 outgoing members, nine are from the NCP, seven from Nepali Congress, two from Rastriya Janata Party and one from Samajbadi Party.
This time, the EC is electing the members on a majority basis. NCP, which commands majorities in the local and provincial assemblies, is likely to bag most of the upper house seats up for election.
Provincial assembly members and the chiefs and deputy chiefs of local units vote for the new upper house members.
Calculating its electoral strengths, NCP has fielded 16 candidates. The remaining two seats are being allotted for the Rastriya Janata Party as per a recent agreement reached between the two parties.
With the upper house members being elected on majority basis, the main opposition NC is unlikely to win any seat .
NCP has fielded Indu Gautam, Devendra Dahal and Gopi Acchami from Province 1, Tulasa Dahal and Radheshyam Paswan from Province 2, Ganga Belbase and Beduram Bhusal from Province 3, and Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Bhagwati Neupane from Gandaki Province. Likewise, Bimala Ghimire, Jag Prasad Sharma and Gopal Bhattarai are being fielded from Province 5, Sumitra BC and Maya Prasad Acharya from Karnali and Taraman Swar and Sharada Bhatta from Sudurpaschhim.
The 19 upper house members retiring on completion of their two-year terms include Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Kali Bahadur Malla, Balram Banskota, Mina Budha, Utol Tamang, Kamala Kumari Oli, Raj Kumar Kunwar, Khem Raj Nepali and Hari Charan Shiwakoti.
NCP is not fielding Finance Minister Khatiwada for a second term. As per the law, he can continue as a finance minister for a maximum six months after his upper house term expires.
After that, Khatiwada can retain in his ministerial post only if the president nominates him for a second term.
Among the candidates for the upper house, Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Beduram Bhusal are considered heavyweights in the party .
Shrestha, who was defeated by Baburam Bhattarai in the 2017 parliamentary elections, has been fielded under the open category from Gandaki. In 2017, he contested from Gorkha constituency- 2 and was defeated by Bhattarai by more than 6,500 votes.
Party Standing Committee Member Bhusal, who recently wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on people's multi-party democracy, is a veteran communist. He was fielded as an upper house candidate earlier also but his candidacy was withdrawn to ensure Ram Bahadur Thapa's victory.
Amid some speculation, NCP Vice-chairman Bam Dev Gautam was not included in the list of candidates. Party leaders attending Friday's secretariat meeting said Gautam was excluded from the list after he expressed his unwillingness to become an upper house member if there was no guarantee of his getting the prime ministerial post.
Since the constitution doesn't allow a national assembly member to become prime minister, Gautam had proposed to party's chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal to amend the constitution to open the way for an upper house member to head the government. But they turned down Gautam's proposal, according to the party leaders.