Tourist Candidates

 

Bishnu Gautam

 

A significant number of contestants of the forthcoming elections to the House of Representatives are being tagged as ‘tourist candidates’. The candidates of the rival parties and their supporters have put such a tag on many of the powerful candidates. 


Interestingly, most of the influential leaders, including chairman of the CPN-Maoist Centre Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ have earned the unwanted tag this time. Maoist boss Prachanda the other day severely poured his anger against Bikram Pande of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Democratic), who is Prachanda’s rival candidate in Chitwan-3 for calling the former as a tourist candidate.

 Pande, a local and a contractor by profession, who was elected from Chitwan in the 2013 Constituent Assembly election from the same constituency, is widely believed to be a strong candidate of the democratic alliance. When Pande called Prachanda a ‘tourist’, the latter labeled him as a contractor and said he was contesting the poll with a contractor, not with a politician.

However, the exchange of charges between Prachanda and Pande did not limit in their constituency alone, they have received wide coverage in the social sites with some witty and interesting comments.  One of the comments referred to the First Lady Arzoo Rana who has reportedly bought a house in Kaiali recently to shut the mouths of the leaders and supporters of rival parties who used to call her a ‘tourist candidate’. “Maybe, he wanted to buy a house as Madam Arzoo did, but he feared whether the media might write that the house was bought from the money of the ‘people’s war’,” goes a comment.

Although Narayan Kaji Shrestha hails from Gorkha, he is also being criticised as ‘tourist candidate’ for not frequenting his home district in the past. Shrestha is contesting the election with his former colleague Dr Baburam Bhattarai from Gorkha-2. At times, both Bhattarai and Shrestha were powerful deputies of Prachanda.

 Krishna Bahadur Mahara in Dang 3, Surendra Karki in Jhapa-2 and Phapha Bhusal in Lalitpur-2 are three other Maoist leaders to receive the same tag this time.  Likewise, Nawaraj Silwal of CPN-UML in Lalitpur-1, Rajendra Mahato of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal in Dhanusa-3, Daman Nath Dhungana in Bhaktapur-2, Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat in Kathmandu-5 and  Gyanendra Karki of  NC and Ashok Rai of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal  in Sunsari have also received similar tag from the voters.

If we look at history, it had been very difficult for the tourist candidates to win elections. In the 2013 CA polls, Prachanda, Dr. Bhattarai and Barsha Man Pun of the then CPN-Maoist Centre faced defeat in the constituencies which were away from their homes.  Bhattarai lost election in Rupandehi, Pun in Morang and Prachanda in Kathmandu and many people suspected Prachanda’s win from Siraha. Likewise, Jhalanath Khanal, the then chairman of the CPN-UML, lost elections in Sarlahi. Even Krishna Gopal Shrestha of the CPN-UML faced a humiliating defeat in the by-election held in Kathmandu-2 after Madhav Kumar Nepal vacated the seat only because the voters took him as a tourist candidate. 

Only Sushil Koirala, the late NC president, was an exception in 2013 polls. He won the election from Chitwan although he was a tourist candidate there.

Considering the voters’ mindset, a few leaders this time have changed their constituency. Yogesh Bhattarai of the CPN-UML who lost two elections from Kathmandu is now contesting the poll from his home district in Taplejung.

Hence, the voters may not take the defeat of tourist candidate in the upcoming elections as a big surprise. Of course, the voters can never meet a tourist leader once he gets elected to the parliament. And they want to avoid this situation by not casting him votes in the polls.

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