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Fear stalks Nepal polls as Maoists abduct candidate

The fear of the Maoists stalks the local polls called by the King next month with just a fraction of the registered parties fielding candidates.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 18:56 IST

The fear of the Maoists stalks the controversial local polls called by Nepal's King Gyanendra next month with just a fraction of the registered parties fielding candidates even as the rebels reportedly kidnapped a mayoral candidate.

In a severe loss of face for the king who claims to have broken the spine of the Maoist insurgency during his one year of absolute rule, less than 10 out of the 72 registered parties sent candidates on Thursday.

It was the last day for filing nominations for the February 8 polls.

Though a nationwide shutdown called by seven major opposition parties on Thursday disrupted life, it was the fear of Maoists that kept people away.

The rebels, who have threatened they would not allow the polls to be held, abducted a mayoral candidate in Gulariya in the farwestern Bardiya district, considered to be a Maoist stronghold, the Kathmandu Post reported on Friday.

Ram Kumar Tharu, 50, a member of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Badri), was abducted on Wednesday, the daily said.

On Sunday, the guerrillas had shot dead another mayoral candidate from the same party in the eastern city of Janakpur.

Of the 3,255 candidates who filed their nomination for the posts of mayor, deputy mayor, ward chairman and ward members in a total of 58 municipalities, an overwhelming majority are contesting independently.

Though 72 parties registered for the polls, down from the 120 plus in the last polls, only three of them have fielded a substantial number of candidates.

All three - Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Badri) Nepal Samata Party and a faction led by Home Minister Kamal Thapa - are headed by politicians who were made ministers by the king after they agreed to take part in the polls.

In several municipalities, the number of seats outnumbers the contestants while many of the independent candidates are first-timers with questionable backgrounds.

For instance, Radhya Upadhyay, a 41-year-old widow, who filed her nomination for the post of ward chairman in Kathmandu, is educated only up to Class 9.

Employed as a peon in a city school, Upadhyay, who claims to be a "social worker", is contesting to please her boss, the school headmaster.

In Nepalgunj in midwestern Nepal, Bhuwan Krishna Shrestha of the little-known royalist party, Rastrabadi Milan Kendra, filed for the post of mayor but withdrew after his weeping wife dissuaded him, the Post said.

The number of nominees could shrink further by Sunday, when people having second thoughts can withdraw from the contest.

In Kathmandu, after the nominations were filed in the City Hall under tight security, the nominees held a meeting with security officials.

"It left some of us shaken," said a contestant fighting as an independent candidate.

"The government says it can't provide security to the contestants individually," said the man who did not want to be named. "We should either agree to stay together under protection or stay away from our residences till the polls. How can we agree to that?"

After the meeting, tense security personnel bundled the nominees in security vehicles to escort them home.

The seven opposition parties are boycotting the polls, saying the exercise is a farce to legalise the king's power grab.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 18:05 IST