KATHMANDU, Nov 14: While people from all walks of life are keenly watching the election in Kathmandu-4, locals in the constituency itself looked indecisive and many voters indicated they may take more time to size up two of the candidates- Gagan Thapa of NC and Rajan Bhattarai of UML.
Many of the locals interviewed briefly by Republica said they are still in confusion as to whom to vote for. The neutral voters are mostly confused because they find similarities in both candidates- both are relatively young, eloquent, educated and proactive in addressing public concerns.
“I am indecisive so far. Both Rajan and Gagan appear equally intellectual. Both of them deserve to be elected to parliament, but one will definitely lose. We give our blessings to both,” said Nawadutta Dhungana of Jayabagshwari.
Bibeksheel Sajha Party, which claims to be an alternative political force, has fielded Subuna Basnet in the same constituency.
All three candidates were born outside Kathmandu Valley, but Thapa and Bhattarai were brought up in the capital. Thapa was born in Solukhumbu, Bhattarai in Sindhupalchowk and Basnet in Ilam. Basnet’s campaign has been overshadowed by the other two, who were both in the last parliament and were involved in promulgating the new constitution.
People who want Thapa’s victory were hopeful about him as an individual while those wishing for a Bhattarai win were more hopeful of the UML than of the candidate.
Thapa believes that he will receive a personal vote rather than a party vote as he did in the 2013 CA election. He had secured 13,000 more votes than his closest rival, who was also from UML.
“I don’t believe in strongholds. I won with a 13,000 vote difference in 2013 but our party lost most local units in the recent local polls. So a stronghold has no meaning in polls where people are wise enough to take an appropriate decision,” Thapa told Republica during a pause in his poll campaign.
Bhattarai has been working hard to hang on to UML’s local poll showing and profit from alliance partner CPN (Maoist Center). UML and the Maoists together are ahead of NC by nearly 4,000 votes in the constituency.
“The left alliance is in a majority in this constituency since long, but we lost the past two elections due to some internal and external factors. We have now reestablished in this area and are fully assured of victory in the parliamentary polls as well,” Bhattarai said while concluding Sunday’s campaigning at Budhanilkantha.
Both the alliances have paid keen attention to this constituency as NC has to retain its twice-won area and UML hopes to rebound on the back of the local poll results and its alliance with the Maoists. UML has received more votes from the seven wards in Budhanilkantha Municipality while NC has received more votes in the metropolitan city area.
Most locals say Thapa is likely to lose some of his vote compared to the last parliamentary polls but his popularity can still sway neutral voters. Bhattarai is likely to increase on the vote received by the UML candidate in the 2013 parliamentary poll thanks to the left alliance and UML’s showing in the local polls.
But many said the fate of the two candidates is still unclear with so many voters remaining undecided. The personalities of the two candidates have bewildered neutral voters in this election a lot more than in past polls, they said. “We will vote for the performing candidate rather than the one making promises. But I am still weighing the two young leaders,” said Pratila Mathema Baidya of Chabahil.
UML has tried to move voters of the Kapan area, accusing Thapa of not helping to address locals suffering dust and mud from the prolonged road work in the area.
“There are lots of local problems and the voters are annoyed. Now that we have won most of the local units in this constituency, we will solve the local problems with the help of local representatives,” said Bhattarai.
On the other hand, Thapa has tried to attract votes banking on the decisions for reform in health security for the general public that he took during his tenure as health minister. He has mobilized more youths in his campaign.
“I believe most people have evaluated my work as an MP and minister. People complained to me during the campaign but they said they would still support me,” Thapa claimed.
Some voters were already decided. “We voted for Thapa in the last election, we want to see a new face now. Thapa didn’t do so well in our area. He didn’t look toward us during the earthquake,” said a woman from Budhanilkantha. But Akalman Sangat of Gaushala said, “We don’t need to go through any red tape to meet Thapa when we need him. We will vote for him again.”
Thapa, 41, and Bhattarai, 50, both cut their teeth in student politics. Thapa has a masters from Tribhuvan University and Bhattarai has a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.