KATHMANDU, Nov 19: Many residents of Kathmandu constituency-8 wake up with either their doorbells or their phones ringing early at the break of the day as the candidates for the upcoming elections visit them early in the morning.
A tough competition is expected between former industry minister Nabindra Raj Joshi of Nepali Congress (NC) and former member secretary of the National Sports Council, Jeevan Ram Shrestha. Though Pukar Bam of Bibeksheel Sajha party is also in the fray, either Joshi or Shrestha is expected to be elected from this constituency, which is drawn between two historical sites of the capital city - Kathmandu Durbar Square and Swayambhunath.
Elected a member of parliament from this constituency for two consecutive times, Joshi has been working harder than in the previous two polls to retain his voters as Shrestha is the common candidate of the the left alliance comprising of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center).
With the election dates approaching fast, candidates reach the voters' houses for their door-to-door campaigns early morning to catch up with the working people who leave for their jobs after 9 am in the morning. Though the candidates are approaching the voters with commitments for national to local issues, most of the voters ask the candidates to sort out the local issues.
“We need drinking water, roads, and round the clock electricity. Drinking water is distributed only once a week for two hours,” said Chewang Lama, 42, of Soltimode.
“We are reeling under the shortage of drinking water and living with the hope of Melamchi drinking water supply for the last 30 years, but it is still uncertain,” said a retired government employee near Basantapur, “Our demand for drinking water remains unfulfilled for decades.”
Another voter from Itum Bahal of Kathmandu-24 said that drinking water supply, reconstruction of quake-affected heritage and cultural structures and help for easing the house reconstruction grant are the key demands they put forward to the candidates for the December 7 poll. “We want the development of this locality, and preservation and protection of different traditions, languages and cultures. We expect the fulfillment of basic local needs from the candidates rather than the big things,” said Pratap Man Shakya, 50, of Itum Bahal.
Most of the voters briefly interviewed by Republica at different locations of the constituency said that they will judge the candidates based on their backgrounds and capacity to fulfill their commitments.
When NC candidate Joshi visited her general store near Indrachowk early Friday morning, Mira Shrestha assured him of her vote in the Newari language. “We will evaluate the work of the candidates and weigh their commitments before voting. But we must say 'ok, I will vote for you' when they visit us,” Shrestha said. “This area has been reeling under a drinking water crisis for a long time.”
Brinda Singh, 67, of Soltimode also sought a commitment from UML candidate Shrestha when he visited her house with his cadres Saturday morning. “I told him that I will only cast my vote to him if he agrees to relocate the office of the Department of Foreign Employment from our locality because we have difficulty commuting due to the unmanaged parking outside the office area,” she told Republica about her conversation with Shrestha in the Newari language.
Both Joshi and Shrestha wake up early morning and start their day with their door-to-door campaigns before most of the residents step out from their houses for their jobs or businesses. The two candidates hold group discussions and meetings during the day with their local cadres, social activists, local organization members and neighborhood management committees.
Joshi has his own unique style of seeking the voters' commitments: he bows his head and asks for blessing from the people in his campaign. Whereas Shrestha includes locally known individuals including members of local groups in his campaign with a view to woo voters.
UML candidate Shrestha has put forth the idea of conserving the heritage and culture, reconstructing earthquake-damaged houses, and ensuring social security and health services to the elderly people. He has promised of not expanding roads along the cultural, religious and historic places, which has become a worrisome issues for many residents near historical areas in the constituency.
UML has fielded former industry minister and party vice-chairperson Asta Laxmi Shakya and leader Rajesh Shakya as its provincial assembly candidates from the constituency. Shakya is expected to influence many voters in her provincial constituency.
Joshi has distributed a leaflet describing his political career and his work in the capacity of industry minister in the past. NC has fielded former lawmaker Rajya Laxmi Shrestha and Dev Ratna Dongol for provincial assembly from Kathmandu-8.
The constituency includes wards 13, 15, 19, 20, 23 and 24 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and wards 4 and 5 of Najargun Municipality.
The left alliance is also supported by Nepa Party while NC's candidates have the backing of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had received third highest votes in the last parliamentary polls in this constituency.
UML's Shrestha is more hopeful of his victory given the performance of the UML and Maoist Center in the recent local polls. “I have also received encouraging response from the voters during my election campaigns. They said that they will vote for the left alliance to ensure stability and prosperity in the country,” said Shrestha of UML.
Joshi of NC is equally assured of his win due to his stature in national politics and his habit of being easily available to his voters. “I have worked for and advocated local problems at the local and national levels. I hope people will evaluate my work in the past tenures,” he said.
Some voters support the candidates without any prior condition while others put forth conditions to vote for them. Sanu Maiya Shrestha of Bafal extended her wish for Shrestha's success smearing vermillion on his forehead, while Sano Chori Shakya of Tara Mandir wished for Joshi's success welcoming him with flowers.
Many voters said that they will vote for easily accessible leaders without caring from which party such candidate are. “We don't have big issues and demands. We want the representatives to listen to our issues and visit our localities even after winning the polls,” said Rajendra Joshi of Lashata Marga, Kalimati. Narayan Devi, 50, of Kilagal, said, “We need the candidate who can help to make our jobs done. I had voted for the UML in the last election but am yet to decide for the upcoming election.”
But some candidates like Karnabir Maharjan, 68, have no hope with traditional parties. “I have no hope with the major three parties. I am mulling whether I should cast my vote or not. We quake victims are yet to receive government assistance to rebuild our homes,” he vented his ire against NC lawmaker Joshi and UML's local level representatives.