JHAPA/ILAM, April 3: With the local polls taking place after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, residents of various districts in Province 1 are not only excited to elect their representatives but are also keenly awaiting to elect their first-ever mayors.
Under the federal new setup, there are eight municipalities in Jhapa and four municipalities in Ilam. As leaders of political parties are vying to win candidacy from among their respective parties, locals of the municipalities in these two districts of Province 1 are keenly anticipating their first mayors and deputy mayors after the restructuring of the local units.
In Jhapa, five of the eight municipalities are new. While Mechinagar, Bhadrapur and Damak were municipalities in the old structure, the new municipalities to emerge after restructuring are Birtamode, Kankai, Arjundhara, Gauradaha and Shivasatakshi. As the local bodies have become more powerful than ever before, locals said casting votes in the election have become more important than ever.
"For the first time, we are getting an opportunity to elect a powerful mayor and deputy mayor. This is bound to be a new and unique experience for us," said Ramesh Pariyar of Kankai-2 with great excitement.
With a total population of 510,216 scattered across eight municipalities and seven rural municipalities, Jhapa has 256,798 female voters; 253,415 male voters and 300 third gender voters, according to the District Election Committee. About 63,000 new voters have been added this time.
Mechinagar Municipality, which has the highest population, has a fierce competition between Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML. Leaders have been lobbying within their own party to win their party's candidacy first before they could prove their leadership by winning the hearts heart of the people.
Although the big parties are yet to announce their candidates in this municipality, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) has fielded Ashok Subba as the party's candidate for the mayoral post in Mechinagar and Sabina Bajgain for deputy mayor.
Competition is also fierce in Birtamode, Damak and Kankai among other municipalities of the district. NC, UML and CPN-Maoist Center are preparing extensively to win the power in the upcoming polls slated for May 14.
Talks about the upcoming polls have become common topic among the locals living in municipalities and rural municipalities in Ilam, Panchthar and Taplejung.
Not just the local residents but even those who are out of the districts for employment and studies also join discussions with the locals regarding the leaders vying in the election at their place. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have become a good platform for them to connect with their relatives back home to engage in the election discussions.
In Ilam district, locals are especially curious about who would be named as the candidates for the post of mayor and deputy mayor from various parties.
"The parties should not field candidates on the basis of nepotism and favoritism, but on the basis of their capability and those who are favored by the people," said Niroj Khadgi, secretary of NC district chapter. "The country has been lagging behind because of nepotism and favoritism. Now it's time to select good people instead," he added.