Undecided voters are kingmakers in Kathmandu-2

Published On: November 30, 2017 05:30 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

KATHMANDU, Nov 30: No federal constituency in Kathmandu is as diverse as Kathmandu's constituency -2 when it comes to geographic and socioeconomic diversity.  Its diversity has also made it a seat with a huge wealth gap between the rich and the poor.  

The seat encompasses a wide range of areas from one of the wealthiest neighborhood in the country like Battisputali to remote villages in the eastern outskirts of the city which were until recently cut off from road facilities.  

Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, a parliamentary candidate from CPN-UML in the constituency, has done a 'satisfactory job' to bridge this socioeconomic gap. He has been credited with helping connect the distant corner of the capital like Nanglebhir and Lapsiphedi with roads and other infrastructures. He has also developed the image of a leader who is accessible and well connected to his constituents. He ritually spends few hours every day listening to the grievances of his voters and tries his best to address them. 

Nepal is once again in the race for parliamentary elections slated for December 7.  UML has every reason to believe that Nepal will win with bigger margin this time around. Nepal is the most renowned leader in the constituency. His reputation seems intact among his core support base. The left alliance between UML and CPN (Maoist Center) has also come to his advantage.

But there is no guarantee that these things will necessarily translate into votes in a constituency which has history of unpredictability.  It's the same seat where Nepal had suffered a stinging defeat during the first CA election in 2008 before reclaiming it in 2013. 
If voters' assessment is anything to go by, Kathmandu-2 is headed for a multi-cornered battle between Nepal, NC candidate Deepak Kuinkel and Bibeksheel Sajha Nepali's Surya Raj Acharya.  

All candidates are equally popular in their own ways and have projected themselves as suitable candidates. While UML and NC candidates are counting on their traditional support base, Bikeksheel Sajaha candidate is counting on young voters craving for change. 
In the absence of a good organization, it looks hard for the Bikeksheel Sajaha candidate Acharya, who is an urban planner, to win the Kathmandu-2 race. But, he is certain to upset the balance of power.  Bibeksheel is also seen as major contender elsewhere in the Valley.

Abinash Gajurel, a young voter from Tinkune, said Bibeksheel Sajha Nepali is likely to get support of young voters from both the left camp and the Nepali Congress. 

"There is big craze for Bibeksheel Sajha among first-time voters. Their pitch for jobs and good governance resounds well among the younger generation. Moreover, Acharya's professional background is also taken as a plus point," said Gajurel, who said he is still undecided. 

While Bibeksheel has made sustainable development, jobs opportunities and good governance as its main agenda, UML has made a pitch for political stability and stable government. 

"Besides development, people in this locality have also realized that UML has been able to take a firm stand against Indian hegemony," said Srijana Kharel, an aide of Nepal who was elected as ward member from Battisputali of Kathmandu. 

Nepali Congress candidate, on the other hand, has also been asking the voters to give the party a chance, accusing former legislators including Nepal of doing nothing for the constituency. 

"Voters from this constituency elected Maoist and UML in the last two elections. NC has fair reason to beg a chance," said Kuinkel.  

All candidates have been making extra efforts to reach out to the voters through door-to-door campaign and social media. Every party has made a-ward level committee to sway support in their favor.  Besides holding the door-to-door campaign, the committees have been wooing voters through phone calls,  SMS, closed Facebook group and other social networking sites.  

The Bibeksheel Sajha Party looks especially ahead when it comes to the use of social media in poll campaign. 

The past election result put the left alliance slightly ahead. But the margin of votes consolidated by the left parties is not big enough. It is the reason many think the undecided and first-time voters like Gajurel has made the race uncertain.  Leaders say the left alliance and NC have around 10,000 and 6,000 committed supporters, while the remaining voters are not affiliated with any party. 

In the recently held local elections, a total of 46,358 votes were cast in the constituency, according to date provided by the Election Commission.

"It's still unclear who will win because very few voters are committed cadres. They are carefully weighing among the candidates. Only the election results will tell what they are thinking now," said Sundar Tamang, who runs a teashop at Tinkune. 

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