POKHARA, Nov 12: Majority of the voters in Upper Mustang will not be able to cast their ballots in the November 19 Constituency Assembly (CA) election as most of them have already moved downhill to warmer parts of the country to avoid frigid weather.
Harsh winter compels scores of residents of this sparely populated Himalayan district to make seasonal migration every year.
Located at 4,200 meters above the sea level, Upper Mustang includes Chosher, Shonhup, Lomanthang, Charang and Gharmi VDCs of Mustang district. With six polling centers, Upper Mustang has 6,942 numbers of voters in total.
“We believe there are not more than a thousand voters left in the region, said Devi Prasad Subedi, chief of Mustang Election Office. “Recent heavy snowfalls have triggered early mass exodus.”
On top of that November is a peak season of many residents of Upper Mustang to head to India for their traditional trade. According to Chief of Upper Mustang Tourism Management Sub-committee, Indradhara Bista, at least 60 percent of the villagers in six Village Development Committee (VDC) of Upper Mustang have already moved to Kathmandu, Pokhara, Myagdi, Butwal and Bhairahawa.
“This year´s seasonal migration started some 45 days ago, much ahead of the regular timing. Besides, many others have left to India for business purpose,” said Bista.
Once they move downhill, it is virtually impossible for the locals to climb back to Upper Mustang just to cast their ballots.
“Even though there are five eligible voters in my family, it is beyond our endurance to stay put till the polling day,” said Bista. According to a local, currently the VDCs wear a deserted look as only a few elderly and party cadres are taking shelter inside the empty houses.
Principal of Rastriya Lower Secondary School at Lomanthang, Gobinda Pradhan said that most of the locals aged between 18 to 50 leave to Varanasi and Assam of India for business during this season.
“While women also head towards Kathmandu, Pokhara, Mygadi, Butwal and Bhairawa for business, the children continue their education in mobile schools at Pokhara,” said Pradhan.
FPTP candidate of Nepal Congress Romi Gauchan shared dismay over the situation. “Many voters will be missing in this election,” said Gauchan.