Kathmandu-1 is the only federal constituency out of the 165 that falls wholly inside a metropolis. The voters in the capital of the country are dynamic and the election here can be fought on a different plane than elsewhere.
The left alliance and democratic alliance are in a close race in the majority of constituencies elsewhere. But candidate of recently formed Bibeksheel Sajha Party has emerged as a stronger contender in the constituency considered a traditional Nepali Congress (NC) stronghold.
A survey of 100 voters by Setopati in Kathmandu-1 showed NC’s Prakash Man Singh and Rabindra Mishra of Bibeksheel Sajha are neck and neck in the constituency.
Singh has his traditional votebank while Mishra will get the benefit of anti-incumbency and the anger against the old parties.
We reached Tripureshwore, Thapathali, Buddhanagar, Thapagaun, Baneshwore, Shantinagar and Bhimsengola of the constituency for the survey. Twenty-nine of the respondents said they will vote for NC. This is the traditional vote of NC.
“We are a little alert this time. But abandoning the party is akin to abandoing one’s home. I will, therefore, eventually vote for NC,” a voter said.
There are many voters who think that NC will develop the country despite its weaknesses as it is an old party. These voters doubt that the new party has a vision. “Everyone gives assurances. Even the new party apparently doesn’t have political vision. I will, therefore, vote for my party NC,” another voter said.
All but one of the respondents who said they will vote for NC have bee voting for the party in the past elections. The only other voter, who had voted for CPN-UML in the second Constituent Assembly (CA) election in 2013, has decided to vote for NC as there is no UML candidate this time.
Singh, who had won in both the CA elections from the constituency, has the traditional votes of NC on the one hand and the votes of the Newar community. He had secured a landslide victory in the second CA election in 2013. He had secured 15,138 votes and Maoist candidate Renu Dahal, who finished a distant second at 4,064 votes, was the only other candidate to save one’s deposit. His vote tally was almost 4,000 higher than the combined votes of the candidiates who finished second, third and fourth.
He also looks set to get votes of some of the UML supporters who cannot vote for a Maoist candidate despite formation of the left alliance.
NC has an electoral alliance with the then RPP-Nepal that had finished third in the second CA election with 3,732 votes. “RPP has a good base in the constituency. I had voted for cow in the second CA election. I can vote for tree this time,” a voter said.
It will, however, not be so easy for Singh to complete his hattrick.
The mayoral candidiates of the then Bibeksheel and Sajha parties had received the largest share of votes in the wards of the constituency in the recent local election. Ranju Darshana of Bibeksheel and Kishore Thapa of Sajha together had received 7,600 votes in the wards from this constituency while NC’s candidate Raju Raj Joshi had got 6,800.
The unified Bibeksheel Sajha seems to have kept the votes received in the local election intact. Very few believed that the mayoral candidates from the two parties, who had contested separately, could win the election then. There were many voters who wanted to vote for Darshana or Thapa but ultimately voted for their old parties feeling Darshana and Thapa would lose anyway. Many now believe that Mishra can win after the unification and such voters who had voted for old parties despite wanting to vote for Darshana or Thapa then can vote for Mishra.
“We will vote looking at the education and intellect of the candidiates. We have seen that the old ones will not do anything despite being elected repeatedly. I, therefore, voted for Darshana in the local election. I will vote for weighning scale now. We should give chance to newcomers,” a voter stated.
Twenty-seven of the respondents said they will vote for Bibeksheel Sajha. Mishra is the choice of voters who want a new face. His party does not have organization at the grassroot level but the neutral voters non-aligned to any party are attarcted toward him. “We have looked for an alternative. There has not been much improvement after electing candidates from the old parties. We will, therefore, give chance to Bibeksheel Sajha this time,” a voter explained.
Eleven of the voters who say they will vote for Mishra this time say they had voted for NC in the CA election in 2013. A voter, who has NC membership, said, “We elected Singh twice. Far from doing anything for us, he didn’t even visit us at the time of earthquake. I will, therfeore, vote for Bibeksheel Sajha this time.”
Many UML voters in the constituency, who cannot vote for a UML candidiate after the formation of left alliance, may vote for Mishra to get NC’s Singh defetaed. Four respondents who had voted for UML in the second CA election said they will vote for the new party Bibeksheel Sajha.
“We don’t know who Anil Sharma is. We will not vote for the left alliance. We should give chance to the new face to work. I may, therefore, think about Bibeksheel Sajha this time,” a voter said.
Maoist candidate from the left alliance Sharma seems weak here. Just 15 of the respondents said they will vote for the left alliance. “I will do anything if KP Oli were to order. Voting for a Maoist candidate is not a big deal!” a voter said. “But my daughter called from Norway and asked me to vote for Bibeksheel Sajha. I have told her to come here and vote herself.”
A significant number of voters (29), we talked to, said they are undecided. This undecided chunk of voters can play a decisive role in the election.