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Decision at the polling booth

Saturday, November 16th, 2013
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The people are taking their time to decide and giving candidates sleepless nights

At midnight today, all campaigning for Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections will end. In the last three days, we travelled from Mahottari, Dhanusha into remote villages of Sarlahi and Siraha district. Memories of last CA elections that had taken place in politically and emotionally charged environment, amid uncertainties of the post Madhes movement have not faded. But when we were greeted with colourful campaigning of various political parties in Dhanusha, we dismissed our fears.

“Voters will choose their candidates in a relatively stable environment this time, unlike last time when emotions were whipped up due to the Madhes movement,” says Bijay Singh who is a Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party PR candidate from Dhanusha. However, many people we talked to during our reporting said they were still undecided about who to vote for.

Jhagru Mahato, 56, has been selling tobacco in the main streets of Malangwa for the last 30 years. He has voted in several elections, but is taking time to decide who to cast his vote for this time. “I’ll know who to vote for when I step into the polling booth,” he told us.

UCPN (M) distributed petrol to around 300 motorcyclists in Pushpa Kamal Dahal's constituency, Siraha-5, where he was addressing a mass gathering.

UCPN (M) distributed petrol to around 300 motorcyclists in Pushpa Kamal Dahal's in Siraha-5. Dahal was addressing a mass gathering today at Siraha Bajar.

Sadvawana Party President Rajendra Mahato, who is running from Sarlahi-4 tries to explain the trend: “There has been an ideological erosion and political agendas (of Madhes) have taken a back seat. Candidates are trying to cash in on caste vote banks which is counter-productive for local politics in the long run.”

Despite fear of violence and threat from armed groups, campaigning in Madhes has been impressively peaceful unlike hill districts where poll boycotting parties attacked candidates and vandalised vehicles. But there have been violation of campaigning guidelines in several places. There were reports of candidates distributing gifts and cash in Dhanusha-4 and Siraha-6. We also saw big banners and flex boards being put up in Sarlahi-5 and 6 by candidates of the Nepali Congress, TMLP, and MJF-Nepal. Similarly, Rastriya Samajwadi Party was found video campaigning in Sarlahi and UCPN-Maoists distributed free petrol to hundreds of motorcyclists (see video) during mass meeting addressed by party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. All the major parties were seen using children during their election campaigning.

ANURAG ACHARYA and NAVIN JHA in LAHAN

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