UML rank and file struggle to get over Gautam’s poll defeatWhile the left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) are busy in power-sharing arrangements on the back of a comfortable majority in the recent elections to Federal Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, the UML rank and file in Bardiya-1 are yet to get over the shocking loss of its influential leader and party Vice-chairman Bamdev Gautam.
Janak Nepal & Kamal Panthi
While the left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) are busy in power-sharing arrangements on the back of a comfortable majority in the recent elections to Federal Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, the UML rank and file in Bardiya-1 are yet to get over the shocking loss of its influential leader and party Vice-chairman Bamdev Gautam.
The party’s district leadership is divided over the causes behind Gautam’s defeat. A faction of the party insiders claim “betrayal” by some of the leaders and activists, while others believe that his “unpopularity” and an “ineffective” election strategy cost him.
Gautam lost the federal parliamentary race by a narrow margin of 758 votes to Nepali Congress candidate Sanjay Kumar Gautam.
Launching a no-holds-barred attack, Gautam’s close aides named former lawmaker Shyam Dhakal, secretary of the party’s youth and sport department Damodar Aryal and Khadka Bahadur Khadka for betrayal and non-cooperation during the elections. Khadka had filed his independent candidacy but withdrew later.
But they brushed off the allegations, suggesting that Gautam’s loss was rather because of the ineffective leadership and poorly managed poll campaign.
Chief of UML Bardiya chapter Hari Gyawali conceded that Gautam’s defeat has “shaken the party to the core” in the district. “Something has gone awfully wrong. An independent inquiry will be held and action will be taken against the guilty,” he said.
The UML provincial committee has formed a committee under Baijanayh Chaudhary to investigate into Gautam’s election defeat.
The UML garnered 28,852 votes in the local level elections, finishing ahead of the Maoist Centre (28,722) and the NC (27,091). On the basis of the result of the local level elections, Gautam faithful had presumed the left alliance would garner around 29,000 more votes than the NC.
However, former lawmaker Dhakal pointed out Gautam’s mobilisation of leaders and supporters brought in from other districts rather than those from the party’s local committees as the main cause of his undoing.
“Even the meetings of the district committee, area committees and other local committees were not held. It seems he had more trust in the outsiders which might have antagonised the local leaders and activists,” said Dhakal, adding that the opposition candidate led his campaign with a smarter strategy going into the polls as the UML leadership struggled to come up with a clear and concrete plan.
Political analysts are of opinion that Gautam, who contested for the House of Representatives six times from Bardiya since the General Elections in 1993, did not have anything else to show off than Babai Irrigation Project. Most of the link roads in his constituency have not been black-topped. Gautam’s visits to the district has been few and far between since winning in the Constituent Assembly elections in 2013.
Besides, his decision to resign from Bardiya-1 in favour of Pyuthan, without consulting the party’s local leaders and the voters in 2013 did not go down well with the electorate.