DHARAN, : To the astonishment of many, independent candidate Harka Raj Rai (Sampang) has won the election in Dharan to become the mayor of the sub-metropolitan city, defeating candidates from the major political parties.
Rai was elected to the post by defeating his closest rival from the five-party alliance, Kishore Rai of the Nepali Congress by a margin of 4,762 votes.
It seems the people of Dharan could no longer place their trust in the major political parties and their candidates. Sampang, even without the support of a political party, was able to amass the faith of many in Dharan.
A local of Dharan and a voter in the recent local election, Parshuram Rai says he voted for Sampang as he felt the independent candidate was ‘right’. “We have been voting since 1991. But no one has done what they said they would do. Sampang has been speaking on behalf of the public. He has opposed corruption; he has fought for the improvement of BP Hospital. I contemplated all of this and voted for him,” he says.
Sampang has emphasized drinking water as a key issue in his mayoral campaign. The supply of drinking water remains a serious predicament in Dharan. Although a USD 22 million drinking water supply project had been introduced earlier, the negligence of the people’s representatives has failed to materialize the project even to the date.
He won the hearts of millions when he protested against corruption in the project. Banu Rai says she has become frustrated having to buy drinking water at Rs 1 per liter. Rai, who was also a candidate for the ward chairperson election in Dharan-11, says Sampang is self-less and a man of his word. While she did not win the election, she places confidence that he would bring good governance and make Dharan corruption-free.
Assistant professor at Mahendra Multiple Campus Dharan, Rajesh Kumar Yadav ‘Bidrohi’ believes the results of the current election to be the expression of the public’s rage against the political parties. Bidrohi says that the people have become disappointed after constantly having to face failures from leaders that promise big dreams but do not actualize them. “Political parties have not been wise in selecting candidates. Candidates should be those who understand the people and are wanted by them. Voters have become aware. They have voted for those they liked,” comments Bidrohi on the recent election.
Sampang also regards that people have trusted him for representing the problems that the people face. “I have not raised any big issues. I have raised subjects that are related to people’s daily lives. The people do not want big things,” he says. “I have spoken regarding drinking water, corruption in BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences and municipality, road conditions, and inflation. These are all issues of the people. That is why they have given me their support,” he mentions.
Who is Sampang?
Born in Khotang’s Khartamchha in the year 1982 to an ex British Army soldier, Sampatang moved to Dharan in the year 1998 to pursue his higher education. He graduated from Mahendra Multiple Campus in politics and sociology.
He taught English and Computer at a tuition center in Dharan for a brief period. In pursuance of his work, he has also spent six years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having a keen passion for literature, he writes and sings songs as well. He also has an album called ‘Missing Heart’ released a decade ago.
Patriotism seems to be deep-rooted within him. He is a man determined to complete the tasks he undertakes. When the construction of the Madan Bhandari Highway would have displaced hundreds of families that have their settlements on the roadsides of Dhankuta, Sampang coordinated a struggle committee that protested this. The event acted as a turning point in Sampang’s life as after this Sampang began getting more engrossed in Dharan’s social issues.
Sampang also stood as an independent candidate in the deputy mayoral race in the previous local election. While he lost the election securing only 422 votes, this did not dishearten him. He ardently went door after door in an effort to understand the problems faced by the people.
He has persistently raised his voice for issues in Dharan such as drinking water, bus park, Sardu watershed encroachment, unplanned excavation of the Sardu river, mismanagement of BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, and corruption in the municipality office. He has participated in demonstrations against border encroachment and MCC.
Although Sampang claims to be ideologically close to communism, he does not intend to join any political party. He believes in working toward the welfare of the poor and disadvantaged. “I do not intend to remain in politics. We had to come because the leaders of the political parties were not good,” says Sampang.