Bhattarai, Shrestha attempt skip for war accusation hangs over them as sword of Damocles

File: Narayan Kaji Shrestha (l) and Baburam Bhattarai

Palungtar, November 12

All eyes are on Gorkha Constituency 2 as voting for House of Representatives and provincial assembly in this hilly district is just two weeks away. The single reason behind a lot of attention this constituency has received this time is that two former comrades–Baburam Bhattarai of Naya Shakti and Narayan Kaji Shrestha of CPN-Maoist Centre–are battling against each other.

It is interesting that the two leaders have adopted quite similar strategies to solicit votes from other parties so as to ensure their victory. It is even more interesting that both the leaders want to do away with the decade-long armed conflict that the Maoist party launched as they need votes from war victims’ families.

Therefore, Bhattarai is stressing in his electioneering that he already left not only the Maoist party, but also the ideology whereas Shrestha says he was not involved in the party when it waged the war.

Both the facts are  true. Bhattarai, who was the second-in-command of the party during the conflict, has now left the CPN-Maoist Centre and chairs fringe Naya Shakti Party Nepal. Shrestha was a leader of the CPN-Unity Centre which merged with the Maoists after they joined the peace process.

At least 18 Nepali Congress leaders and cadres were killed by the Maoists during the conflict. But, Bhattarai now has received the party’s ‘official’ support for the polls. Nonetheless, he is in danger zone as some Congress leaders including former District Development Committee Chairman Chandra Prasad Neupane have publicly announced that they will not vote for Bhattarai.

Some war victims including Gorkha Municipality Mayor Rajan Raj Panta, however, have extended support to the ‘former Maoist’.

Shestha, who is contesting against Bhattarai with the CPN-UML support, also needs some votes from the Congress as the UML is weaker in the district. Therefore, he also does not forget to present himself as the one who opposed the war.

Hence, many Congress cadres are confused. “This time our party does not have any candidate. It means we are free to choose whoever we find better at the last hour,” says Lok Bahadur Ranabhat of Palungtar.

So who is under the sword of Damocles? Wait till the announcement of results in December second week.

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