29 November-5 December 2013 #683

Going Local

This year, voters supported candidates familiar with their constituencies
Dambar Krishna Shrestha

WINNING WAYS: Rajendra Kumar KC of the Nepali Congress celebrates his victory in Kathmandu-10 in front of the BICC building in Baneswor.
Pre-poll predictions indicated that this time round, voters were more drawn towards?local aspirants with credibility and a proven track record. Barring a few exceptions, most constituencies rejected high-profile, ‘tourist’ candidates and cast their ballot in favour of locals, regardless of their caste, ethnicity, or party affiliation.

Pitted against heavyweight Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the fiercely contested Kathmandu-10 constituency, Nepali Congress’ Rajendra Kumar KC, who is a native of Chobhar, defeated Dahal by a margin of more than 7,500 votes. In 2008, he had lost to Dahal by 11,000 votes. KC started his political career in 1974 as a student leader and became actively involved after the 1990 Janandolan. In the same year, the NC nominated him to chair the party’s Chobhar Village Committee and he went on to become the regional chairman in later years. During the 1993 local elections, he was elected as chairman of Chobhar Ward-2. KC is a well-known figure in the area and has worked alongside locals on various community projects.

In Jhapa-1, UML’s Rabin Koirala managed to woo voters with years of development work in the region. Born in neighbouring Panchthar district, Koirala spent most of his childhood in Jhapa and completed his education from here.

Starting in 1990, Koirala remained a district committee member for 19 years. Then in 2009, the party elected him to the district chairman post where he has served two terms so far. After winning the 1998 local elections, he served as mayor of Mechinagar and worked to bring electricity to the municipality. Koirala was also instrumental in turning the gravel road in Kakarbhitta bajar and the one joining Kakarbhitta–Bahundangi into concrete roads. Currently, he is the vice-chairman of Manmohan Memorial Hospital in Birtamod and has also headed the management committees in Kakarbhitta Multiple Campus and Kakarbhitta High School.

Winner of Jhapa-4, Prem Giri from the UML has made a name for himself in the community as a social worker. Giri, who is the former chairman of Khudunabari VDC, runs an NGO and has been advocating for safe drinking water and health posts in the area. He has also travelled from village to village giving leadership training, nutrition education, establishing self-sustaining cooperatives, and writing project proposals for local organisations. Residents of Jhapa-4 chose Giri to represent them in the CA not because of his ties with the UML, but due to years of hard work in the region.

The NC’s Dik Bahadur Limbu of Morang-9 was defeated in the 2008 elections by a small margin, but managed to crush another heavyweight, senior UCPN (M) leader and former finance minister, Barshaman Pun, this time round. Limbu started out in leftist politics, but joined the NC in 1986. He has served as the village and regional level president as well as the party’s co-president for the district. His dedication to local development projects earned him the trust of his constituency.

Chandi Prasad Rai, who works as a teacher at a local school, is extremely well-liked in his constituency of Morang-2 and won the elections on a UML ticket based on his excellent reputation and involvement in social work. If students cannot afford to pay their exam fees, Rai waives off the money and lets them take the exam.

Winner of Morang-1 Rishikesh Pokhrel of the UML, winner of Morang-4 Shiva Kumar Mandal of the UCPN (M), and winner of Morang-5 Amrit Aryal of the NC are all popular candidates in their constituencies.

Similarly, Krishna Bhakta Pokharel, who won in Chitwan-3, has been actively working at the grassroots level for the past two decades and is a well-respected figure in the community. Soft-spoken Pokhrel entered the UML in 1983. In Kaski, the NC’s Sharda Poudel (no 2) and the UML’s Sita Giri (no 4) are well-known leaders in the district, who have a keen understanding of local needs.

The years Sushila Chaudhary spent fighting for the rights of women and marginalised communities in her constituency of Dang-2 was finally rewarded when she emerged victorious in elections. Chaudhary, who ran from an NC ticket, is currently the president of Laxmi Women Development, Savings, and Loan Cooperative. Raju Khanal also from the NC won in Dang-3 because of his emphasis on using local resources to kickstart development in the district. His friendly, polite nature also garnered him immense support.

Nara Bahadur Chand of the NC managed to defeat senior RPP leader and former Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand in Baitadi-2. He attributes his win to popular votes from commoners.

Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Lokatantrik)’s Janak Raj Chaudhary won from Kailali-1 not on the strength of his political credentials, but rather because of his reputation of being a good and honest teacher. Chairman of the UML and former Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal lost out in Sarlahi-1 to Shambu Lal Shrestha of the UCPN (M). Shrestha started out his political career in the early 90s with the Nepali Congress and became district secretary in 1999. He also won the local elections of 1992 and 1998 and was elected as chairman of Pattharkot VDC. He got a ticket to run for elections after defecting to the UCPN (M) in October this year. Despite the UML having a stronghold in this constituency, Shrestha defeated Khanal by a margin of more than 600 votes because the locals trusted him with the responsibility of representing them in the new CA.

With additional reporting by Gopal Gadtaula, Kamal Rimal, Sabita Shrestha, Madhav Baral, Bachhu BK and Debika Ghartimagar.

“Constitution before 2015”

Interview with Rajan KC of the Nepali Congress who defeated UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal in Kathmandu-10

Why do you think the people picked you over a powerful and influential leader like Dahal?

In 2008, people voted for Pushpa Kamal Dahal from two constituencies in large numbers. But he neither worked for the people nor for the constitution. He failed to deliver on his promises even when he was the prime minister. That is why Dahal cannot be called influential and powerful.

Also the previous polls took place in an atmosphere of violence and great uncertainty. The Maoist combatants were still in their cantonments and the YCL was very active. But this time there was no such fear. The people had seen Dahal’s true colour and were tired of his drama. So they chose me.

What makes you so popular in your constituency?

Over the past 25 years, I have worked among the people and contributed to development projects in the area. Nepalis believe that the NC can maintain peace in the country and steer it towards progress and prosperity. That is why they voted for me.

Will you be able to keep the promises you have made to the people?

This election was organised first and foremost to draft a new constitution. We will work on completing the constitution within a year and then focus on social and economic growth in the next four years. The 1990 constitution was drafted under the leadership of Congress and this time too we will work according to the people’s mandate.

Any message for your supporters?

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who voted for the NC. We plan to write a constitution that is inclusive of all identities and also helps erase the existing conflicts within our society. We will only create as many states as we can afford. The UML also agrees with our agenda.

Swing voters

In weekly polls conducted with the support of The Asia Foundation, Himal Khabarpatrika asks 374 respondents in 12 cities across Nepal every Monday for their opinion on politics. One of the questions put out repeatedly was who they would vote for in the second Constituent Assembly elections.

From the first survey we did in the third week of August to the last one in the second week of November, right before the polls, it was clear that the Maoists wouldn’t do as well as they did in 2008. A large share of their dwindled support was redistributed among the NC and UML. In August, one in five persons we interviewed said they were unsure which party they would vote for. This figure dropped to one in seven by November, but ultimately it was the undecided voters who decided which way the results swung.