If the early trends of vote count at the local level in the western Tarai are anything to go by, established major parties are highly likely to dominate the election results.
The regional parties appear to be headed for victory in only a few local federal units. In the Tarai districts where the Tharus have sizeable presence, popular candidates from the community are leading. Major parties have also fielded candidates from the ethnic group in Tharu-majority districts such as Bardiya (53 percent) and Kailali (41.5 percent).
Of the 14 ward chairpersons elected from the CPN (Maoist Centre) in Dang, where Tharus account for 29.5 percent of the population, three were from the indigenous community.
As of Friday evening, the Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, in alliance with the Baburam Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti Nepal, was leading at three local units—Narainpur of Banke, and Rohini and Mayadevi of Rupandehi. Bijay Gachhadar’s Nepal Loktantrik Forum is leading at the Tharu-dominated Bhajani and Tikapur municipalities of Kailali district.
Candidates of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party are the forerunners in Krishnanagar of Kapilvastu, Nepalgunj Sub-metropolis and Janaki Rural Municipality of Banke.
An independent candidate of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal that boycotted the polls is leading at Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality.
Chandra Narayan Chaudhary, a member of the Samyukta Tharu Rastriya Morcha, says there are many instances of a strong party that fields popular Tharu candidates winning the vote.
The ethnicity variable matters when the constituency has a dominant presence of ethnic groups such as Tharus, Madhesis and Limbus, says Sanjay Mahato, a researcher who is studying the voting pattern in Nepal.
The higher the level of party institutionalisation, the higher the probability of getting votes and winning the election, according to him. The rise of ethnic sentiment in the local election has forced big parties such as the Nepali Congress, the CPN UML and the Maoists to pick candidates from dominant ethnic communities.
This, observers say, will not only help subvert the domination of “high-caste Hindu male elites” in politics but address the issue of under-representation of ethnic communities.
Parties leading in 8 west Tarai districts
UML- 23, NC- 19, MC- 10, RPP- 3, SSF- 3, NLF- 2, Independent- 1