Faced with an imminent defeat in the mayoral election of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, representatives of the ruling CPN (Maoist Center) torn off ballot papers on Sunday at around 11:45 PM during the final phase of vote counting. This obstruction has resulted in the halting of the vote counting process until Wednesday.
Police have confirmed that the representatives of the Maoist Center present at the vote counting station tore off some ballot papers. Superintendent of Police (SP) Deepak Thapa, who is also the chief of the District Police Office (DPO), Chitwan, said, “The vote counting process was going on peacefully. But there was suddenly a dispute between two groups. Suddenly, the Maoist representatives sprang up and started tearing off the ballot papers. I immediately got there and took the people involved under control.”
According to Thapa, police have arrested Maoist Center representatives Madhu Neupane and Dronbabu Siwakoti for the foul play. A total of 33 police personnel, including Thapa and a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), were present at the time of the incident. Senior leaders of political parties in the district were also present to observe the vote count.
The election in Bharatpur metropolis has been keenly observed nationwide after Maoist Center fielded Renu Dahal, the daughter of Prime Minster Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as its mayoral candidate for the metropolis forging an electoral alliance with the Nepali Congress (NC).
Out of 29 wards in Bharatpur, votes cast in 27 wards have already been completed. Counting of votes cast in ward numbers 19 and 20 has not been completed. Votes from ward number 19 were being counted when the incident took place.
Before the incident, CPN UML's mayoral candidate Devi Gyawali was leading the poll by 733 votes. While Gyawali had received a total of 41,641 votes, Maoist Center's candidate Renu Dahal was trailing behind him with 40,908 votes.
Chief Returning Officer Kavi Prasad Neupane said he was on the way to bathroom when the incident took place. “I returned after hearing the noise. The situation had turned upside down in the blink of an eye. It was like a scene from a battleground,” he said. Neupane, however, refused to comment how many ballot papers were torn.
UML district chairman Krishna Bhakta Pokharel accused the Maoist Center cadres of tearing off the ballot papers after being certain that their candidate Dahal had no hope of winning. “Our competitors stooped to such a low level after our party's candidate Gyawali became certain to win,” he said.
On the other hand, Maoist Center's district in-charge Ishwari Bhattari blamed the UML cadres for the incident. “As our party's candidate Dahal was closing in on their candidate, UML cadres caused the incident,” he said.
The cadres of NC, Maoist Center's poll partner, too said the same thing. Following the incident, NC has demanded re-voting in the disputed ward-19 of Bharatpur Metropolis as per clauses 49 and 50 of the Election Act-2073.
The Election Commission (EC) has formed a panel to investigate the incident. A board meeting of the election body assigned Joint-secretary Geeta Prasad Timsina to investigate the matter and submit the report by Wednesday morning. Another Joint-secretary Mahesh Acharya from the Ministry of Home Affairs and DIG Kedar Man Singh Bhandari are the members of the committee.
"We had asked them to prepare the report by Monday. But they demanded two more days," said EC Spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma adding that they should complete the investigation by Wednesday morning.
Vote counting has been put off until the probe panel submits the report to the EC. The investigation team has already left to Chitwan for investigation.
PM Dahal, who is also the chairman of Maoist Center, had left no stone unturned to ensure his daughter's victory. He forged an electoral alliance in Bharatpur with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuwa, an old enemy who as prime minister, had set bounty for Dahal's head at the height of the Maoist insurgency. Just before the election, the duo had visited Chitwan to jointly campaign for the PM's daughter as Bharatpur's mayor.
The election in Bharatpur has become a matter of prestige for the ruling parties as well as the main opposition UML which contested the elections for the metropolis on its own despite the formidable strength of the NC-Maoist Center alliance.
भरतपुर महानगरपालिकाकाे मतपत्र माअाेवादीले च्यातेकाे चितवन प्रहरीले पुष्टि गरेकाे छ। निर्वाचन अधिकृतले अाफू बाथरूम गएकाे बेला मतपत्र च्यातिकाले केही नदेखेकाे भन्दै घटनालाइ रहस्यम बनाइरहँदा प्रहरीले माअाेवादीका दुइ बुथ प्रतिनिधिलाइ मतगणना स्थलबाटै पक्राउ गरेकाे जनाएकाे हाे।
भरतपुर महानगरपालिकाको मेयर पदमा प्रधानमन्त्री पुष्पकमल दाहाल पुत्री रेणु र एमालेका देवी ज्ञवालीबीच मेयर पदका लागि राेमाञ्चक प्रतिस्पर्धा भइरहेको थियाे।
मतपत्र च्यातिँदासम्म एमालेका ज्ञवाली ४१ हजार ६४१ मतसहित अगाडि थिए। माअाेवादीकी रेणुकाे ४० हजार ९०८ मत पुगेकाे थियाे।
१९ नम्बर वडाको मत गणना सुरु भएपछि माअाेवादीकी रेणु दाहालकाे मतान्तर निकै घट्न सक्ने अनुमान विपरित १८ सय मत गणना हुँदा ज्ञवालीले अग्रताबाट केबल ५१ मत मात्रै गुमाएकाे अवस्थामा घटना भएकाे हाे।
मध्यरातमा माअाेवादीले मतपत्र च्यातेपछि भरतपुर महानगरपालिकाकाे मतगणना स्थगित गरिएकाे छ।
मतपत्र च्यातेकाे घटनाबारे चितवन प्रहरी प्रमुख एसपी दीपक थापाले नागरिकन्युजसँग कुरा गर्दै :
मत गणना शान्तिपूर्ण रुपमा भइरहेकाे थियो। कभर्ड हल भित्रको वातावरण सौहार्दपूर्ण थियो। म र डिएसपी सा'बसमेत गरेर त्यो बेला ३३ प्रहरी मतगणनास्थलमै थियौं। पार्टीका मुख्य मुख्य नेताहरु पनि थिए।
छवटा समूह बनाएर मत गन्ने काम हुन्छ, हिजो पनि त्यही भइरहेको थियो। कतै गणना भइरहेको थियो, कतै सकेर रेजा गन्ने काम हुँदै थियो। जसमध्ये दुईवटा समूहमा विवाद निस्कियो। त्यतिबेला रातकाे करिब १२ बजेकाे हुँदाे हाे।
विवाद हुँदै थियो एउटा समूहको प्रतिनिधि बाँदरझै उफ्रेर मत पत्र समात्न गए। चार पाँचवटा जति च्याते पनि। उनी उफ्रेको देख्ने वित्तिकै म तत्काल त्यता बढे। उनलाई समातेँ। त्यसपछि थप व्यक्ति पनि समातिए। उनीहरु मधु न्यौपाने र द्रोणबाबु सिवाकोटी हुन्। उनीहरु माओवादी केन्द्रका प्रतिनिधि हुन्। त्यहाँ पार्टीले तोकेका प्रतिनिधिहरु नै थिए। त्योभन्दा बाहेकका व्यक्तिहरु भित्र थिएनन्।
गन्दै गरेको त्यस्तै चार पाँचवटाको हाराहारीमा मतपत्रहरु च्यातिएको अवस्था छ। गनेर भ्याएको मुठोको मतपत्रहरु पनि च्यातिएका छन्। जसको नतिजा सार्वजनिक भइसकेको थिएन। हिजो मध्यारतमा भएको घटना यही हो। हामीले सबै मतपत्र र टुक्राहरुसमेत एकै ठाउँ संकलन गरेका छौं। मुख्य निर्वाचन अधिकृतको कार्यालयले अर्को सूचना नहुँदासम्म मत गणना नहुने सूचना निकालेको छ।
वडा नं. १९ को मत गणना हुँदै थियो। २० को बाँकी नै छ। कभर्ड हलको गेटमा निर्वाचन आयोगले ताला लगाएर सिल गरेको छ। एमालेले पनि ताला लगाएको छ। अरु पार्टीहरुलाई पनि ताला लगाउन भनेका छन्। मत गणना स्थल वरपर निषेधित क्षेत्र कायम गरेर नारा जुलुस गर्न नपाउने व्यवस्था मिलाउँदैछौं।