A loudspeaker cut through the early morning silence in Chandragiri Municipality on Wednesday as a pickup bounced along an alley, blaring election slogans. With less than a fortnight to go, there is sound and fury as campaigning gets into high gear for the 13 May local elections.
But there is also consternation in the ruling 5-party coalition because many local cadre are dissatisfied with the way the party brass has chosen common candidates. Some 40% of candidates from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress (NC), for example, are defying the party edict and standing as rebels.
An electoral alliance between the NC, Maoists, the Unified Socialists and JSP have running mates for mayors and deputy mayors, as well as municipality chairs and vice-chairs from a combination of parties. This has left many local politicians disgruntled, with some even threatening to break away and run as independents.
Matters have come to a head in the all-important Pokhara and Bharatpur Municpalities. The former president of NC Pokhara, Bimal Bahadur Karki is contesting as an independent candidate after his party’s decision to give the mayoral ticket to Dhanraj Acharya of the Unified Socialists.
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“I will not be withdrawing my candidacy under any circumstance,” says Karki who has accused Prime Minister Deuba of offering Pokhara on a platter to the Communists. The coalition members are also facing public wrath for giving tickets to family or close cronies with money, and not to capable and popular local leaders.
In the 2017 local polls, the Maoists tore up ballot papers and forced the NC to withdraw its mayor candidate in favour of Renu Dahal, the daughter of Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The NC’s powerful leaders in Chitwan are determined not to let that happen again, even though Renu Dahal has once more been given the ticket in a NC-Maoist deal.