Poor transfer of Congress votes weighing down coalition partnersCongress voters seemed reluctant to back other coalition candidates. But they voted for the UML in some places.
Preliminary results of the federal and provincial polls held on Sunday suggest the votes of Nepali Congress have not been transferred to other coalition partners.
This had been long feared. The transfer from Nepali Congress to CPN (Maoist Centre) was thought to be particularly hard; Congress leaders were among the main Maoist targets during the decade-long bloody insurgency. Nonetheless, an electoral alliance was forged between the Congress, the Maoist Centre, the CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Rastriya Janamorcha.
Even in the May 13 local polls, most candidates of the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist in urban areas were defeated as Congress votes were not properly transferred.
This time too most Maoist Centre, Unified Socialist and Janamorcha candidates are far behind in vote tally while most Congress candidates are in the lead.
The CPN-UML, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the new Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) appear to have reaped the benefits of this as many traditional Congress voters seem to have plumped for candidates from outside the ruling coalition.
The Unified Socialist candidates who are in the soup due to problems in vote transfer include Jhalanath Khanal in Ilam-1, Ram Kumari Jhakri in Gulmi-2, Jeevan Ram Shrestha in Kathmandu-8 and Srinath Baral in Kaski-2.
Unified Socialist candidate for Kathmandu-8 Jeevan Ram Shrestha, who is currently the tourism minister, is in third position as of Tuesday evening.
The party’s senior leader and ex-prime minister Khanal said though the party will evaluate things after all results are out, he agreed that there was a problem in vote transfer.
Khanal tried to gloss over a possible loss. “If we lose, we will get to spend more time building our party,” Khanal told the Post from Ilam. “As the alliance culture is new, voters seem reluctant to transfer their votes.”
Other leaders of coalition parties have also complained of poor transfer of Congress votes. If anything, in places, in the absence of candidates from their own party, some of the traditional Congress voters seem to have voted for the UML, the leading party of the opposition, as a part of a tactical exchange of votes.
“I don’t think there is a problem with transfer of Congress votes because in some places they have exchanged votes with UML quite effectively,” said a senior Maoist Centre leader and office bearer asking not to be named. “But their votes did not transfer to parties of the alliance.”
Most Congress votes, according to observers, put their stamps next to the ‘bell’ icon (the electoral symbol of the Rastriya Swatantra Party, RSP) when they didn’t find their own party’s ‘tree’ symbol.
In Morang-5, Maoist Centre’s Shiva Kumar Mandal has been left far behind by independent candidate Yogendra Mandal.
Coalition’s candidate Pampha Bhusal is in third position in Lalitpur-3, behind Toshima Karki of the RSP and UML’s Amrit Khadka.
The CPN (Maoist Centre) had fielded 47 candidates in direct elections (FPTP) while CPN (Unified Socialist) fielded 19 such candidates for the House of Representatives.
In Kathmandu-2, Maoist Centre leader Onsari Gharti is in now in fourth position, after RSP’s Sobita Gautam, UML’s Maniram Phuyal and RPP’s Kunti Devi Pokhrel; in Kathmandu-7, Manushi Yami Bhattarai is in third position and in Kathmandu-9, Maoist Centre leader Kalpana Dhamala stood third while UML’s Krishna Gopal Shrestha registered victory.
Bhojraj Adhikari of the Maoist Centre continues to trail in Chitwan-3, behind Bikram Pande of the RPP and Jeeta Baral of the RSP. Maoist Centre General Secretary Dev Gurung is following UML’s deputy general secretary Prithvi Subba Gurung in Lamjung, according to some Maoist leaders, just because a faction of Congress had an agreement with the UML.
Rastriya Janamorcha’s one of only two candidates in the fray, Durga Poudel, is running far behind the UML candidate in Pyuthan, even though in the May locals elections the total coalition votes easily outnumbered those of the UML. Poudel said she was still hopeful though, with votes in many local units still to be counted.
“My votes were unexpectedly low at some of the local units which indicates that Congress supporters didn’t vote for me,” said Poudel from Pyuthan over the phone. “Nationwide trend also suggests Congress votes didn’t transfer to other coalition partners.”
Even in provincial assemblies many candidates of the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist have been trailing for the same reason.
Some Maoist Centre candidates who are left behind are Amrita Thapa in Syangja 1A, Ratna Dhakal in Kavre 1A, Hari Dahal in Lalitpur 1A, Prakash Phuyal in Kathmandu 6B, Jagat Simkhada in Dhading 2B, Ghanashyam Dahal in Chitwan 2A, Harka Lawati in Ilam 2B and Shyam Bir Limbu in Ilam 1B.
Unified Socialist candidates who are not faring well include Bharat Prasad Phuyal in Kathmandu 2B, Pushpa Raj Pokhrel in Jhapa 2A, and Arjun Kumar Rai in Dhankuta A.
Some political analysts, however, blame the tendency of coalition leaders to impose their decision on Congress voters and cadres which they rejected.
“People have clearly revolted against the coalition leadership’s decision to prevent them from voting with their own conscience in the name of alliance compulsions,'' said Chandra Dev Bhatta, a political analyst.
As of Tuesday evening, the Congress is leading in 45 constituencies with four wins, the Maoist Centre is leading in 15 constituencies, the Unified Socialist in seven and the Rastriya Janamorcha in one constituency.
Another political analyst Jhalak Subedi also said Congress votes were not transferred to the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist barring some exceptions. He pointed out several reasons for this reluctance.
Some Congress voters could have been victims of the Maoist insurgency, while others were not roused to vote for unpopular candidates or parties with no popular support, Subedi said.
“In Kaski, Congress cadres even refused to be present at polling centres in constituencies with no Congress candidates.”
Subedi said most dissatisfied voters of Congress voted for the RSP right across the country.