Minister Chaudhary faces tough challenge in Dang-1Metmani Chaudhary was elected from the constituency in the previous House elections as a CPN-UML candidate.
Dang-1 constituency has largely been a Nepali Congress bastion since the restoration of democracy in 1990. Except in the first Constituent Assembly election of 2008 and the 2017 general election, the party has always won the constituency, which covers Deukhuri Valley in the district.
If the votes received by ward chairpersons during the recent local elections are any guide, the Congress remains the most popular party in the constituency. However, in an electoral arrangement among the parties in the ruling coalition for next week’s elections, Dang-1 has been allotted to the CPN (Unified Socialist).
Metmani Chaudhary was elected from the constituency in the previous House elections as a CPN-UML candidate. With the backing of the CPN (Maoist Centre, he secured a comfortable victory against his opponent from the Congress. He bagged 37,908 votes, against his closest rival Sushila Chaudhary’s 24,074.
Five years later, Metmani is now a CPN (Unified Socialist) leader and minister for Urban Development in the Sher Bahadur Deuba government. He is seeking re-election from the constituency as the common candidate of the ruling coalition. His major competitor will be from the UML, his former party, while the Congress, which was his main rival last time, is now an ally.
The vote tally from the May 13 local polls favours the Congress. The Congress ward chair candidates received 29,757 votes while the UML candidates stood second with 27,025 votes in total. The Maoist Centre candidates got a total of 19,276 while those from Metmani’s party, CPN (Unified Socialist), got just 2,341 votes.
Local candidates from the alliance combined received a total of 51,374 votes, which is 24,349 more than that of the UML, which is contesting the November 20 election alone in the district. The KP Sharma Oli-led party has fielded Shanta Chaudhary, a former Kamlari (indentured labourer) and the party’s whip in the latest House of Representatives.
It looks easy for Metmani to defeat Shanta, if the vote secured by the parties of the ruling alliance in the local election go to his kitty this time as well. However, the election is not plain maths, say local leaders from the alliance parties.
Yogendra Chaudhary, the Congress Central Working Committee member, was a ticket aspirant from the constituency. He didn’t get the ticket because his party’s leaders in Kathmandu conceded the seat to the Unified Socialist. He has been included in the party’s closed list for proportional representation. Metmani’s victory largely depends on Congress’ vote bank and Yogendra Chaudhary’s wholehearted support is a must for it.
“Being a party worker, I will obey my party’s order,” Yogendra told the Post. “The alliance candidate will have my full support.” Unlike in the local elections, the Congress in the constituency is divided. Parbata DC Chaudhary, a two-time Congress lawmaker, quit the party, expressing her dissatisfaction over the party’s decision.
She had won the second constituency assembly elections in 2013 while she became a lawmaker under the proportional representation system in 2017. Parbata has now joined the Resham Chaudhary-led Nagarik Unmukti Party. “I will use my entire strength to secure victory for the Nagarik Unmukti Party,” she told the Post. “There is no point sticking to the Congress, which has deviated from its ideology.”
Interestingly, Yogendra’s elder brother—Surendra—happens to be a candidate from the newly formed party. The Congress leaders say defection of Parbata and Surendra’s candidacy means a significant number of Congress votes may not go to Metmani.
Yogendra and Surendra’s family happens to be a long time Congress supporter, which is going to be divided following the latter's candidacy. “A significant vote from the Tharu community that voted for the Congress is going to Surendra this time,” said a Congress district committee member.
To add to the problem, Dev Raj Pathak, a long time Congress cadre, is a candidate from Rabi Lamichhane’s Rastriya Swatantra Party. A section of the dissidents from the Congress have sided with him. Madhu Acharya, 58, from Parseni village from the constituency is one of them. “Many Congress cadres like me are with Pathak this time. We won’t vote for the alliance’s candidate,” Acharya told the Post.
The differences within the five-party alliance have elated the UML. The party's local leaders say very few Congress voters are going to vote for Metmani this time.
Hari Belbase, a former district committee member of the UML, claims that his party will win, even if it retains its local election vote. “He (Metmani) is heavily dependent on the Congress voters, but very few votes are getting transferred to him. The UML alone is far ahead of the Unified Socialist and Maoist Centre together,” Belbase claimed to the Post. “Shanta is going to win this time.”
However, to ensure Shanta’s victory will not be as simple as Belbase said. Ganga Chaudhary Satgaunwa, who is a UML proportional member of the lower house in 2017, is contesting the election as an independent candidate from the constituency after the party denied her ticket. She could prove to be a spoiler for the UML.
The Unified Socialist leaders say Surendra and Pathak will only divert a few hundred Congress votes. “We are not afraid of Surendra or Pathak who can’t garner more than 300-400 votes each,” Narayan Sharma, Metmani’s personal assistant, told the Post. “Most of the alliance vote will get transferred. We will get three-fourth of the total votes that will be cast in the constituency.”