Nepal bypolls boost ruling Maoists (Lead)

April 11th, 2009 - 5:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, April 11 (IANS) Nepal’s ruling Maoist party has received a boost in by-elections to six seats, with the results coming in Saturday indicating it was poised to win three, including an opposition stronghold.
Nepal’s biggest opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), suffered setbacks in two seats in Friday’s bypolls. The Maoists have done well despite growing public criticism of their seven-month-old government.

The Kanchanpur seat had been a stronghold of former NC prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and returned him to parliament in the 2008 election. Vacated after Deuba won from a second constituency as well, the bastion fell to the Maoist grassroots leader whom Deuba had humbled, Harish Thakulla.

Thakulla, also known as Kamal Chhetri during the Maoists’ 10-year ‘People’s War’, who had lived in India’s Mumbai city for several years, supporting himself by hawking newspapers, pulled off a surprise victory over NC candidate Ek Raj Joshi.

The NC also lost its Dhanusha citadel, which had voted for the party in 2008.

NC lawmaker Ram Baran Yadav had resigned from the seat after being elected the first president of the republic of Nepal, replacing deposed King Gyanendra as the head of state.

Though Yadav’s son, radiologist Chandra Mohan Yadav, was fielded by the NC, the debutant politician floundered in third place with the regional party, Terai Madesh Loktantrik Party, and the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, which is a member of the Maoist-led coalition government, fighting neck and neck.

The NC however got a shot in the arm when its candidate Shekhar Koirala won from Morang district in eastern Nepal.

Koirala, nephew of NC chief and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and uncle of Bollywood diva Manisha Koirala, had been humbled in the same constituency last year by the new regional party, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. This time however he clawed back, with the blessings of his octogenarian uncle who was among the first few to cast their votes, winning by a slender margin of 692 votes.

In the other seat in Morang, there were no surprises. Won last year by the Forum, it voted for the same party’s Jay Ram Yadav, with the Maoists coming a close second.

Counting will start late for the seat in Rolpa, regarded as the cradle of the Maoist movement and won last year by Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.

It is likely to be retained by the ruling party despite a dissenter contesting as an independent candidate.

Besides Kanchanpur, Maoist contestant Krishna Bahadur Gurung won from Kaski, the district that last year voted for Maoist Law Minister Dev Gurung.

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