KATHMANDU, Nov 8: With the polls date just a few weeks away, Kathmandu constituency-5 looks set for a keen three-party race.
While CPN-UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel and Nepali Congress (NC) leader Prakash Sharan Mahat are directing their poll campaigns against each other, joint coordinator Ujjwal Thapa of newly-formed Bibeksheel Sajha Party is making a foray into the traditional poll battleground of these two big parties.
NC leader Narahari Acharya had secured victory from the constituency in the two Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 and 2013, defeating UML leader Pokharel both times. But as Acharya is taken ill this time, NC has fielded Prakash Sharan Mahat in the constituency which it considers its traditional stronghold.
Along with Mahat and Thapa, the latter a youth leader with a distinct identity, the candidacy of UML heavyweight Pokharel even after two past defeats in the same constituency has evoked additional interest among political observers.
Uttam Pathak, who is one of the campaigners for NC leader Mahat, said they are confident about victory again. Although former foreign minister Mahat is contesting as a new face in the constituency, his political association with the grand old party for the past 35 years and permanent residence in the constituency are sure to earn him all the NC votes, according to Pathak.
The constituency has a total 64,000 voters. While NC has forged an electoral alliance with Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), RPP (Democratic), Naya Shakti Nepal and Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, the UML is in alliance with the Maoist Center and other left parties. "Since the Maoist Center voters are negligible in number, we are confident of victory even if UML has forged alliance with Maoist Center," Pathak further said.
In the recently held local level election, the UML-led leftist alliance had secured a total of 25,318 votes and the NC-led alliance a total of 19,346. Of the total 46,267 votes cast, various other parties secured the remaining 1,603 votes.
UML campaigners seek to earn at least 25,000 votes this election, with the support of Maoist Center. "We already have 20,000 votes in our favor. We expect to take this to over 25,000 as Maoist Center and other leftist parties are supporting us. Our victory is guaranteed," said Pokharel's personal secretary Dipendra Shrestha, who has been in all the election campaigns.
UML campaigners argue that NC's decision to field a new candidate could benefit them (UML). "Although the competition is one of parties and agendas, the new candidate NC has fielded could prove helpful to us in solicit additional voters from rival parties," said Pokharel's campaigner. Pokhrael's strength, according to them, lies in the knowledge of each and every community in the constituency.
Newly-formed Bibeksheel Sajha Party, which has fielded its joint coordinator Ujjwal Thapa, is equally hopeful of victory in the upcoming poll. Thapa, who started in politics with the founding of Bibeksheel Party, contested the previous election as an independent and had earned a 'respectable' vote.
Central Member of the party Sadhana Rai said they hope to garner at least 20,000 votes and win the poll. "Of course, two of our opponents are strong. We are soliciting votes by making people aware how leaders of the traditional parties are plundering the nation and its resources. Our campaigns are going strong," she claimed.