KATHMANDU, Oct 18: With by-elections slated for November approaching fast, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has prioritized the widows of its deceased lawmakers as candidates from the party.
This comes at a time when several local leaders are projecting themselves as prospective candidates.
The Election Commission (EC) is holding by-elections for 52 positions at all levels, including a seat in parliament. The ruling party is primarily focused on Pokhara, Dang and Bhaktapur, where three seats – one for parliament and two for the provincial assemblies – are lying vacant following the death of three lawmakers.
A parliamentary seat fell vacant in Kaski after then tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari was killed in a helicopter accident in Taplejung in February. Adhikari was the MP from Kaski-2. Provincial assembly seats have been lying vacant in Dang and Bhaktapur following the deaths of lawmakers Uttar Kumar Oli and Harisharan Lamichhane.
All three were elected under first-past-the-post.
Oli died in a road accident whereas Lamichhane died of brain hemorrhage.
As the ruling party is not performing so well in governance, its top leaders are worried over its prospects in the key by-elections.
This past week, a meeting of top party leaders chaired by chairmen KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal decided tentatively to field the spouses of deceased leaders in Pokhara and Dang although for the sake of formality they have also instructed lower level committees to suggest candidates with good prospects by October 27.
Picking a candidate for Kaski-2 remains tricky as several other individuals in the party also wish to contest. But the party is not confident about their prospects at the polls.
Concerned over the party’s strength in the absence of popular youth leader Adhikari, the NCP had earlier requested a senior leader, Bamdev Gautam, to contest the vacant Kaski constituency. But Gautam declined, citing the party’s weakened presence in the district as one of the reasons.
He suggested fielding a local face as that would stand a better chance.
After Gautam’s refusal to stand, Somnath Pyasi is lobbying the party leaders to field him instead. Party leaders, according to informed sources, are not willing to do so.
Top party leaders are trying to persuade Bidya Bhattarai, widow of the deceased Adhikari, to contest instead.
“Several individuals want to contest from Kaski but Bidya is considered the favorite among leaders and voters,” said one party leader.
In Dang, the party is considering fielding Bimala Oli, widow of the late incumbent Uttar Kumar Oli. While local leaders including Shovaram Basnet and Jograj Giri are seen as prospective candidates also, the leaders both in the province and at the center have made up their mind to field Oli’s widow from Dang constituency 3 (B).
A regional meeting is being called for Saturday to propose candidates for the provincial by-elections. “With party leaders including the chief minister of the province in favor of Bimala, there is little chance for us,” said Giri.