KATHMANDU, April 4: Infighting and backdoor battle has started in the major parties with several well-known faces showing interest in becoming mayoral candidates in Kathmandu as the local level election draws nearer. The country looks all set to go to civic polls on May 14 which will elect the representatives for 744 local units.
The three major parties - Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) - have kept the Kathmandu Metropolitan City at the top of their “must-win” cities as the capital city has a huge influence on Nepal’s political, social and economic spheres. Many believe that Kathmandu’s mayor is likely to be the second most attractive post after the prime minister due to the huge power and vast resources and budget at his/her disposal.
As just 40 days remain for the local polls, several political heavyweights including some sitting and former ministers have intensified lobbying to become three major parties’ mayoral candidates in Kathmandu. There is equally fierce competition among lower rung leaders to win candidacies in other three metropolitan cities -- Pokhara, Lalitpur and Bharatpur.
With a traditionally strong support base in Kathmandu, the Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament, is witnessing a fierce infighting for candidacy.
At least six leaders have presented themselves as frontrunners for the post and are lobbying on the ground and also at the center. The frontrunner candidates include Minister for Industry Nabindra Raj Joshi, Tirtha Man Dangol, Dhyan Govinda Ranjit and Raju Raj Joshi. Health Minister Gagan Thapa has also been projected as a potential candidate. NC leaders said that the party is working to pick a candidate who could win the election.
“We have asked representatives from each ward to submit the possible names for candidacies. The party would pick one candidate from the names vetted by the district president,” said Ananda Prasad Dhungana, an NC leader.
Similarly, at least half a dozen leaders have expressed interest to become the main opposition UML’s candidate for Kathmandu mayoral elections. The frontrunners for Kathmandu ticket include Yogesh Bhattarai, Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Jivan Ram Shrestha, Rambir Manandhar and Bidya Sundar Shakya.
UML Secretary Bhattarai said that the party’s central leadership has been assigned to decide the mayoral candidate for Kathmandu while the candidacies for other seats will be picked based on the recommendations of the lower echelons of the party.
“Kathmandu Metropolitan City remains at the top of the party’s priority list. The central leadership will itself finalize the candidacy of Kathmandu,” said Bhattarai.
“It is too early to say anything as there are many aspiring candidates for Kathmandu. The party leadership is working to pick a candidate based on consensus,” said Bhattarai.
Unlike NC and UML, the CPN (Maoist Center) is considering giving ticket to candidates not active in party politics. Kulman Ghising, managing director of the Nepal Electricity Authority, has also been presented as the party’s probable mayoral candidate for Kathmandu. Ghising, who is credited for reducing power cuts after taking the helm of the NEA, has become a household name in Kathmandu.
There is a strong possibility that the party will field a candidate who is not a ‘full-timer’ in politics if the party sees the chance of winning the polls. Our pick for mayoral candidate in Kathmandu and other metros will also depend on the rival candidates,” said Mani Thapa, a CPN (Maoist Center) leader.
Besides Ghising, several influential leaders including Hitman Shakya, Umesh Sthapit, and Sarvottam Dangol have been mounting pressure on the party headquarters for Kathmandu mayoral ticket.
“We are paying special attention to give ticket to those candidates who have higher chances of winning the elections. The headquarters has asked the party’s lower echelons to pick strong candidates. The names are coming in,” said CPN (Maoist Center) spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.