The House of Representatives (HoR) constituency of Kathmandu-2 looks set for a two-horse race between CPN-UML’s Maniram Phuyal and Sobita Gautam of Rastriya Swatantra Party led by Rabi Lamichhane.
Common coalition candidate from CPN (Maoist Center) Onsari Gharti may have to compete with Kunti Pokharel of RPP for the third place.
The main opposition UML is the strongest party in the constituency that includes Shankharapur Municipality, ward numbers 4-9 of Kageshwori Manahara Municipality, and ward numbers 9 and 32 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Madhav Kumar Nepal of UML had won the constituency in 2017 with a big margin when UML had allied with Maoist Center with promise of post-election unification. Nepal has since split the party and formed CPN (Unified Socialist) but UML is still strong in the constituency and Phuyal is, therefore, a strong contender.
Gautam, however, seems to be attracting all the aggrieved voters from major political parties and mounting a serious challenge for victory leaving coalition candidate Gharti Magar far behind.
Setopati reached almost all the places in the constituency and talked with 304 voters about the upcoming election, their preferred parties/candidates, the reasons for their preference, and the most important issues for them among other things.
Sixty-seven (22%) of them said that they would vote for UML’s Phuyal, 65 (21.3%) for Sawatantra Party’s Gautam, 40 (13%) for Maoist Center’s Gharti, and 37 (12%) for RPP’s Pokharel. Four said that they would vote for other different candidates.
Ninety-one (almost 30%) voters said that they had yet to decide who to vote for. The 91 voters include 57 who said that they had voted for UML in 2017. These undecided UML voters represent both hope and fear for the main opposition party in the constituency this time, and who they decide to vote for come Sunday will decide the race.
If the majority of them decide to again vote for UML, Phuyal may win but if a large proportion of those undecided voters opt for a new candidate and vote for Gautam who has been attracting more voters in recent days, Phuyal may lose.
Fifty-seven of the 67 voters who pledged to vote for Phuyal said that they had voted for UML even in 2017 and nine said that they had voted for NC while one is a first-time voter.
The 65 voters who pledged to vote for Gautam worryingly for Phuyal includes 31 who said that they had voted for UML in 2017. Sixteen of the 65 had voted for NC and six for NC while eight are first-time voters and four did not want to reveal who they had voted for five years back.
Eighteen of the 40 who pledged to vote for Gharti said that they had voted for UML-Maoist coalition in 2017, 17 said that they had voted for NC, and two for Bibeksheel Party while three are first-time voters.
Similarly, 14 of the 37 who pledged to vote for Pokharel said that they had voted for UML, 14 for RPP, and seven for NC in 2017 while two are first-time voters.
UML looks set to get the largest share of votes even in Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system with 68 pledging to vote for sun. Fifty-three voters said that they would vote on bell of Swatantra Party, 37 for NC, 37 for RPP, 14 for Maoist Center and six for Unified Socialist.
The constituency in this way looks to have turned into a two-horse race between UML’s Phuyal and Gautam of Rastriya Swatantra Party due to frustration of voters with major political parties.
Phuyal may eke out a close victory despite leaking votes due to the very strong base of UML in the constituency but former speaker Gharti looks set for an ignominious defeat despite being the common candidate of ruling coalition.
(Joint reporting by Shova Sharma, Manika Bishwakarma, Susan Chaudhary, Nirmala Ghimire, Unique Shrestha and Sabina Karki)