A whiff of change in the air on candidate nomination dayIndependents challenge many party heavyweights as Election Commission registers candidacy across country.
The race for federal parliament and provincial assemblies entered an important stage on Sunday with political parties and individuals filing nominations across the country. The candidates will vie for 165 seats of federal parliament and 330 seats of provincial assemblies under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system on November 20.
Another 110 seats of the federal parliament and 220 seats of provincial assemblies will be filled through the proportional representation system of election.
While hundreds of candidates have filed nominations as independent candidates, the real fight will be between the ruling five-party alliance and another coalition led by the CPN-UML. Sunday’s nominations suggest the common candidates of the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and the Rastriya Janamorcha will challenge the candidates fielded jointly by the UML, the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal. However, unlike the five-party alliance, the UML-led electoral partnership doesn’t have common candidates across the country.
“The nomination process for the elections under the FPTP system concluded smoothly across the country,” Shaligram Paudel, spokesperson for the Election Commission, told the Post. As per the commission’s report compiled by the time the Post went to press, 2,494 persons including 233 women registered their candidacies for the House of Representatives. A total of 3,423 persons, 295 of them women and one from the sexual and gender minority community, filed their nominations for provincial assemblies.
The commission had fixed Sunday for filing the FPTP nominations. On September 18 and 19, the parties had submitted their closed lists of candidates for proportional election.
Prime Minister and the Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba has filed his candidacy from Dadeldhura for the seventh time since 1991. Arzu Rana Deuba, the Congress Central Working Committee member and wife of the prime minister, filed the candidacy on her husband’s behalf at the district office of the commission. The executive head of the country will go head-to-head against his former comrade Karna Malla, who quit the Congress and joined the Nepali Congress (BP), a fringe party.
CPN-UML chair and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli is trying his luck from Jhapa-5. The Congress’s Khagendra Adhikari, the common candidate of the ruling alliance, and writer Deepak Kumar (Yug) Pathak among others are challenging him. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party is supporting Oli.
Then there is Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal who likes to constantly switch constituencies. During the first Constituency Assembly (CA) elections in 2008, Dahal won from Rolpa-2 and Kathmandu-10. And in the second CA elections in 2013, he was elected from Siraha-3, but lost in Kathmandu-10. But new electoral rules bar candidates from contesting from more than one constituency.
And in 2017, during the first general elections held after the promulgation of the federal constitution, Dahal moved to Chitwan-3, his home district, and won. But this time, he is trying his luck in Gorkha-2. Dahal’s nomination was proposed by Babarum Bhattarai, chairperson of Nepal Samajbadi Party, and seconded by Narayan Kaji Shrestha, senior vice-chair of the Maoist Centre. Both Bhattarai and Shrestha are from Gorkha and in 2017 the two had contested against each other from Gorkha-2. The contest was won by Bhattarai, who had the backing of the Nepali Congress.
The UML has fielded Abdus Miya to challenge Dahal. Likewise, Madhavi Bhatta, a dissident in the Nepali Congress, is also contesting as independent, challenging Dahal.
Chairperson of the Unified Socialist, Madhav Kumar Nepal, is a common candidate of the five-party alliance in Rautahat-1. Upendra Yadav, chairperson of the Janata Samajbadi Party, is contesting from Saptari-2 with UML’s support. Yadav is likely to face a tough challenge from Loktantrik Samajbadi Party’s Jaya Prakash Thakur, who is a common candidate of the Congress-led electoral alliance. CK Raut, chairperson of the Janamat Party, is also contesting from the same constituency.
Similarly, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party chair Mahantha Thakur is contesting from Mahottari-3 as a common candidate of the ruling alliance. The UML-led alliance has fielded Hari Narayan Yadav of the Janata Samajbadi Party to challenge Thakur.
In several constituencies, the battle is going to be between heavyweights. Rajendra Lingden, the chairman of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, is facing Congress senior leader Krishna Sitaula in Jhapa-3. Lingden has the support of the UML while Sitaula is the common candidate of the five-party alliance. Lingden had defeated Sitaula in the 2017 elections.
In Sarlahi-2, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party senior leader Rajendra Mahato is contesting against Mahendra Raya Yadav, joint-chairperson of Bhattarai’s party. Similarly, Gokarna Bista, the UML secretary, and Ram Kumari Jhakri, secretary of the Unified Socialist and former UML leader, are fighting head-to-head in Gulmi-2.
In Syangja-2, Congress vice-chair Dhanraj Gurung will face UML secretary Padma Aryal. Aryal was elected from the constituency in 2017.
In the Capital, Kathmandu-5 will see an interesting contest. Ishwar Pokharel, a senior vice-chairperson of the UML, is being challenged by Pradip Poudel of the Congress. Former Bibeksheel Sajha Party leader Ranju Darshana too has filed her candidacy as an independent from the constituency.