Rebel candidates refuse to heed party orders to withdraw from raceElection Commission officials say it is against the code of conduct to pressure the candidates to pull out.
On Wednesday, top leaders of the ruling five-party alliance issued a joint statement urging all rebel candidates from the alliance-member parties to withdraw from the local election race by that evening.
But the local leaders refused.
Again on Thursday, Nepali Congress President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba issued another appeal asking party mutineers to withdraw their candidacies by Friday evening, the the deadline set by the Election Commission, and support the official candidates of the five-party alliance.
By expelling Karna Malla on Tuesday, Deuba had given the message to Congress leaders and cadres that he will not tolerate rebellion in the party. Malla resigned as a member of the Sudur Paschim provincial assembly on Thursday.
However, most of the rebels standing against the official candidates of the alliance have refused to withdraw from the electoral race.
And the major dispute is over candidacies for top positions of metropolitan cities—especially Bharatpur, where chairman of CPN (Maoist Centre), Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has fielded his daughter Renu Dahal for a second term as mayor, and Pokhara, where the alliance has allocated its mayoral position to the CPN (Unified Socialist).
In Bharatpur, former lawmaker Jagannath Poudel has refused the request of Prime Minister Deuba, Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand and Minister of State Umesh Shrestha. After Poudel refused his request on Tuesday to come to Kathmandu, the prime minister had sent home minister and state minister to Chitwan, but to no avail.
As the ministers are learnt to have pressured the rebel candidates to withdraw from the race, observers and even election officials have criticised the move.
After pressure from Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a key member of the five-party electoral alliance, Congress chief Deuba has instructed his leaders to ensure that the party rebels including Poudel of Bharatpur withdraw their candidacies.
The Election Commission has set 10 am-5pm Friday for candidates to pull out of the race.
“We don’t have any data on those withdrawing their nominations yet but the coalition is working hard to ensure that their rebel candidates withdraw,” said Jagannath Khatiwada, spokesperson of the CPN (Unified Socialist). “No one has made an announcement to withdraw yet but we believe many of them will abide by their parties’ directives and pull out of the race by Friday evening.”
Also the Election Commission officials have said they have taken notice of the activities of the ministers as it is against the election code-of-conduct to pressure any candidate to withdraw. “Any public position and public resources come with public responsibilities,” said Surya Prasad Aryal, assistant spokesperson of the Election Commission, at the regular press briefing on Thursday. “Our code-of-conduct does not allow such activities. The Commission will take necessary decisions with regard to such activities.”
Leaders of the alliance, however, are not hopeful that the rebel candidates would follow their party’s orders.
In Pokhara Metropolitan City, Congress’s Rishi Sapkota has projected himself as a candidate for mayor against the alliance’s official candidate from the CPN (Unified Socialist). The party has fielded Dhanaraj Acharya for mayor.
“Many party leaders have telephoned me and asked me to withdraw but I’m not going to change my decision,” Sapkota told the Post over the phone from Pokhara.
Local Congress leaders said they have also been trying to persuade him to withdraw from the race but he has not heeded them. “We are working hard to convince him to withdraw but there has been no progress,” said Guru Baral, a Congress leader of Kaski district.
During the manifesto launching function on Thursday, local Congress leaders and cadres, who are unhappy with the alliance’s selection of candidate from a party ‘that does not have a voter base’, had tried to obstruct the function by chanting slogans outside the function venue.
However, the coalition leaders are working hard to convince Sapkota, a long-time Congress leader, to withdraw his nomination.
In Janakpur, Manoj Sah and Nirmal Chaudhari of Nepali Congress have rebelled and filed nominations for mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, of Janakpurdham Sub-metropolitan City. Sah resigned as president of the party’s Sub-metropolitan Committee. Congress leaders are working to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies.
After party chair Upendra Yadav fielded his son Amarendra Yadav as deputy mayor of Biratnagar metropolitan city, Umesh Yadav filed nomination for mayor resigning from the Janata Samajbadi Party. Umesh alleged that Upendra forged an electoral alliance with big parties just to ensure his son’s win in Biratnagar.
According to Congress insiders, the party will take stern action against those who defy the party’s instructions, so they hope most of the rebel candidates will withdraw their nominations by Friday evening. But they admitted that candidates like Poudel of Bharatpur and Sah of Janakpur may still not withdraw.
The Election Preparations and Monitoring Committee, led by senior Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, held a meeting on Thursday to discuss rebel candidates. “We have been working to ensure that the rebels withdraw their candidacies by Friday evening,” said Dev Gurung, a senior Maoist Centre leader and member of the Poudel-led committee. “The parties concerned will take action if the rebel candidates ignore their parties’ decisions.”
Of the total 152,465 candidates filing their nominations at the Election Commission, 12,720 are independent.