Senior Vice-chairman of CPN-UML Ishwar Pokharel may suffer yet another defeat in the House of Representatives (HoR) constituency of Kathmandu-5 despite UML being the strongest party in the constituency.
Common coalition candidate from Nepali Congress (NC) Pradip Paudel looks well placed to defeat Pokharel who had lost both the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2008 and 2013 to NC’s Narahari Acharya after first being elected to the HoR in 1999.
The constituency includes ward numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, and a total of 11 wards of Budhanilkantha and Tokha municipalities.
UML was very strong in the constituency five years back. Pokharel had raced to a landslide victory securing 23,029 votes as UML and Maoist Center had forged electoral alliance with promise of post-election unification. Current NC Spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat had secured just 13,169 votes.
UML is the strongest party in the constituency based on the votes received at the ward level in the recent local election despite the then Khanal-Nepal faction of UML splitting to form CPN (Unified Socialist). The main opposition party had received 19,705 votes at the ward level in the constituency, NC 14,852, RPP 2,902, Unified Socialist 1,827 and CPN (Maoist Center) 1,168.
But Pokharel seems to be doing very badly due to his own unpopularity and may lose to NC’s Paudel in the UML stronghold.
Setopati reached almost all the wards in the constituency and talked with 273 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-six (24.17%) of them said that they would vote for NC’s Paudel, 51 (18.68%) for UML’s Pokharel, 31 (11.35%) for Pranaya Shumsher Rana of Rastriya Swatantra Party led by Rabi Lamichhane, 15 (5.49%) for RPP, and 14 (5.12%) for independent candidate Sushant Shrestha. Similarly, 23 (8.42%) said that they would vote for different candidates including independent ones and those from small parties.
Seventy-two (26.37%) of the voters said that they had yet to decide who to vote for.
The fact that Pokharel is hugely unpopular is also showed by the fact that UML looks set to get the most votes from the constituency in the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system. Sixty-six of the 273 voters Setopati talked to said that they would vote for UML in the PR electoral system but only 51 of them pledged to vote for them. Paudel, on the other hand, is attracting 18 more voters than the 48 who pledged to vote for the grand old party in the PR electoral system.
Pokharel’s poor state can also be gauged from the fact that he is trailing Paudel despite the fact that the 273 voters Setopati talked to included 104 who said that they had voted for Pokharel in 2017. But just 48 of those 104 pledged to again vote for him.
He has tellingly bled 19 of those 104 votes to NC’s Paudel while Setopati did not find even a single voter who had voted for NC in 2017 but pledged to vote for Pokharel this time. Pokharel has also lost 20 of those 104 votes to Rana of Swatantra Party, four to RPP, and nine to other different candidates.
Those who pledged to vote for NC’s Paudel, on the other hand, includes two who had voted for RPP and five first-time voters to go with the 19 who had voted for Pokharel five years back.
The fact that the 72 undecided voters also include 55 who had voted for Pokharel in 2017 shows the level of fall in his popularity. The undecided voters, on the other hand, include just eight traditional NC voters.
Paudel does not seem to suffer much even though Rastriya Swatantra Party fielded former NC cadre Rana as its candidate. There were expectations that Rana, who was a general convention representative of the grand old party in the past, would attract more traditional NC voters. But Rana has attracted 20 voters who had voted for Pokharel in 2017 and just five traditional NC voters.
Many voters angry with the major parties also seem to be reluctant to vote for Rana due to his past NC connection, and Setopati also found a few who said that they would rather opt for young and promising Paudel from NC than vote for a former NC guy from Swatantra Party.
(Joint reporting by Shova Sharma, Manika Bishwakarma, Susan Chaudhary, Nirmala Ghimire, Mandira Ghimire and Sabina Karki)