Candidate abducted, violence in Nepal on by-poll eve

April 9th, 2009 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 9 (IANS) More than a dozen people were injured and a candidate was abducted as violence erupted in southern Nepal Thursday on the eve of by-elections for six parliamentary seats, an acid test for its ruling party of former guerrillas.

Almost a year after the sleepy Himalayan kingdom went to the hustings to end its centuries-old royal dynasty, the new republic will Friday hold bypolls for six seats that fell vacant due to five political heavyweights vacating a seat each.

They include Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The sixth seat was given up by lawmaker Ram Baran Yadav who was elected the first president of Nepal.

Violence erupted in Biratnagar town in eastern Nepal’s Morang district as the Maoists fought a pitched battle with former comrades who had quit this year to form a splinter group.

Headed by former Maoist minister Matrika Prasad Yadav, the defectors, who have their stronghold in the Terai plains, battled the Maoists for nearly four hours in the small hours of the morning till police intervened.

Nearly 15 people, including cadres from both sides, were hurt in the clash with three receiving bullet injuries.

Rallies and meetings have been prohibited in Biratnagar in the wake of the violence, police said.

In Dhanusha district in the Terai, the home of both the president and the dissident Maoist leader, a communist candidate was kidnapped in the morning, his party said.

Santosh Shah, who was contending for the seat vacated by the president, was abducted from a crowded bus park in the main town Janakpur.

An armed group calling itself the Terai National Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Dozens of armed groups have been mushrooming in the plains since the fall of monarchy and many of them are opposed to elections.

According to the Election Commission, 139 contestants are in the fray for the six seats. Despite the spurt in the number of women contestants in the last election, this time only 10 women have put their hats in the ring.

The most prominent contestant is Chandra Mohan Yadav, the president’s son, who has been fielded by the opposition Nepali Congress. Like his father, Yadav too was a physician by profession who left his job as a radiologist at the country’s oldest hospital, Bir Hospital in Kathmandu, to join politics.

Friday’s bypolls will be a crucial test for the Maoists. Though the former guerrillas swept the historic election last year and succeeded in abolishing monarchy, they are now mired in a series of events that has tarnished their image.

While veteran Maoist leader Matrika Prasad Yadav split the party, the Maoists are also at loggerheads with their alliance partner, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.

Instead of fighting the bypolls in tandem with the communists, they are pitted against each other, which will weaken both and enable the regional parties from the Terai to improve their performance.

The Maoists are going to the bypolls with repeated murder charges levelled against their cadres.

In the latest incident, the former guerrillas are alleged to be behind the killing of a communist youth leader, Prachanda Thaiba.

Though the former rebels immediately announced they had expelled the alleged killer, it has been rubbished by the other parties, especially with the man immediately going underground.

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