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80% turnout

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
Pic: Dipak Gyawali

Pic: Dipak Gyawali

Dipak Gyawali in Rupandehi

The Marchwar region of Rupandehi district is adjacent to the Buddha’s birthplace of Lumbini, but these lawless plains near the Indian border saw much bloodshed during the conflict.

Even after the war, the region has frequently seen violence. CK Raut, the Madhesi figure espousing separatism, often comes here to train cadre. The Madhes-based RJPN sees Rupandehi as its main stronghold after Province 2. Last December, when the UML led its Butwal-centric agitation against the government’s proposal to split Province 5 to appease the RJPN, Madhesi leaders met here to chalk out a strategy for retaliation.

The RJPN appealed to people here to boycott Wednesday’s local polls, yet voters turned out in large numbers anyway to elect local representatives despite threats of violence. The Marchwar saw a record 80% turnout, much higher than the national average of 70%. The booths opened at 5am, but people had begun lining up from 4am, in spite of the darkness and rain.

Sapina Khatun, 28, was voting for the first time in her life after finally getting her citizenship last year after a long struggle. “The Indians easily bribe their way through to get citizenship certificates, but Nepalis and women like me have to fight for it,” she said through her veil. “I hope our suffering will end once we have elected representatives.”

Locals here were so fed up with political instability and lack of development that they defied the RJPN’s boycott call, and so did some party cadre. As many as 171 RJPN members stood as independent candidates.

Thabang village in the mountains of Rolpa is also in Province 5, and is a stronghold of the breakaway Maoist faction led by Netra Bikram Chand (‘Biplav’). It is the group that tried to disrupt elections by setting off explosions. But the people of Thabang, who heeded Biplav and boycotted the CA elections in 2013, this time came out in large numbers to vote.

Like RJPN cadres in the Marchwar, Biplav’s cadres also stood as independent candidates. Interestingly, they formed an electoral alliance with the Nepali Congress – a party Biplav views as his ultimate class enemy.

But both in Thabang in the mountains and Marchwar in the plains of Province 5, people are angry with Kathmandu for robbing them of their right to practice democracy and good governance at the grassroots. The polls gave them a chance to vent their ire via the ballot paper.

“There is only one takeaway from these elections, and this is that people just want political stability and economic prosperity,” says Mahendra Yadav, a local leader of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN).

In Kotahimai village council of Rupandehi, Bal Kishun Tiwari was always at the forefront of the RJPN agitation. He followed every order from party leaders, but he disobeyed the boycott call, and even contested the polls independently for the village council chair. “People want elections, and I cannot go against them,” he told us.

Many RJPN cadres who contested elections without their party’s support are sure to win in Province 5, and even beyond. Ironically, even if they win, their party will be the biggest loser. After boycotting Phase One in Provinces 3, 4 and 6 and Phase Two in Provinces 1, 5 and 7, the RJPN is now restricted to Province 2, where Phase Three is scheduled for 18 September, though it is still not certain if the RJPN will participate even then.

The enthusiasm with which people turned out to vote in the 11 Tarai districts in Phase Two is a clear sign that RJPN cadre cannot go against the people’s support for elections. It is still to be seen if the main party leaders will understand which way the wind is blowing.


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One Response to “80% turnout”

  1. Maddy on Says:

    Why govt is not publishing rejected votes statistics?

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