KATHMANDU, March 23: Even as nearly all polling stations in the tarai plains remain susceptible to election-related violence and possible disruptions, the biggest challenge for poll security may come from the eight districts of Province 2, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has concluded on the basis of threat assessment reports received from local administrations across the country.
MoHA officials said that the ministry has already received detailed threat assessment reports from all 75 districts, outlining the potential security challenges in holding the local polls and the measures they would take to meet those challenges.
In the detailed reports sent in over the week, most district administrations in the hill and mountain regions have informed that they see no immediate challenge in maintaining law and order during the polls. These districts said they are capable of handling poll security with the available resources.
But district administrations in Province 2 have cited multiple threats to the upcoming polls.
“The situation is really fluid in the region as the Madhesi parties are campaigning against the polls. We also face additional threats from radical groups like that of CK Raut and Jaya Krishna Goit. Having said this, we are taking all possible measures to conduct the polls in a free, fair and peaceful environment,” said Chief District Officer of Saptari, Krishna Bahadur Katuwal.
Based on a detailed threat assessment report, most localities in the eight districts have been listed under sensitive and extremely sensitive zones. Officials said the extremely sensitive zone mainly includes localities under the sway of forces opposing the polls and areas with a history of frequent clashes and political tensions.
“The threats are particularly high in remote villages that border the Indian state of Bihar. But we believe it will be much easier to conduct elections in areas adjoining the Mahendra Highway,” said Laxmi Prasad Kharel, spokesperson of Sarlahi District Administration Office. He said that the southernmost parts of the district have been put in the extremely sensitive category.
Altogether, the home ministry has identified 1,847 localities as being in the extremely sensitive, 4,260 localities in the sensitive and 5,526 in the normal zones. There will be 21,000 polling stations across the country.
Officials in charge of security said they were prepared to maintain law and order during the polls but stressed the need for bringing the agitating Madhesi parties on board.
“Polls preparedness is good from our side. But it would be very difficult to hold the polls without the Madhesi parties. It would be good if the parties tried to resolve the crisis through talks,” said acting CDO of Siraha, Shree Krishna Shrestha.
On Wednesday, the Election Commission and the prime minister held extensive discussions on poll security with other stakeholders, with a special focus on the districts of the tarai. Poll security preparedness in the eight sensitive tarai districts topped the agenda, the officials said.
Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said the EC was concerned about delays in ending the differences with the Madhesi parties. He said the EC has made renewed calls to PM Dahal to end the political deadlock through talks.