Thamel warms up for TAAN election

Thamel — the tourist hotspot in Kathmandu — is getting warmer with every passing day after Nepal’s largest tourism association — Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) — announced dates for election for its new executive committee.

TAAN, which boasts of nearly 1,400 members, is holding an election for the new executive committee in Kathmandu on September 6. The new executive committee will have a tenure of two years.

Holding election is a normal democratic practice. But, in tourism industry in general and TAAN in particular, the election is much more than that. It’s a nearly Rs 50 million show-offs, with TAAN Secretariat spending nearly Rs 2.5 million to hold the election and contesting panels spending nearly Rs 2-2.5 million on series of dinners and cocktail parties to woo voters. Many candidates pay a membership renewal fee of the companies to secure their votes.

A snap survey of past elections of TAAN conducted by eTravelPress shows, the panels contesting in the election are affiliated to or close to two major political parties of the country — CPN-UML (which has now become Nepal Communist Party after the merger with UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress). As Nepal Communist Party is much stronger compared to Nepali Congress after the merger with UCPN (Maoist), the panel supported by Nepal Communist Party might have upper hand in the elections this year.

Holding election is a normal democratic practice. But, in tourism industry in general and TAAN in particular, election is much more than that. It’s a nearly Rs 5 million show-off, with TAAN Secretariat spending nearly Rs 2.5 million to hold the election and contesting panels spending nearly Rs 2-2.5 million on series of dinners and cocktail parties to woo voters.

But observers say it won’t be a cakewalk for the Communist panel, as tourism organizations of the then CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) have yet to unify even though the parties have merged. Also, the then CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) had different factions which makes things further difficult for the pro-Communist panel. So, it will be difficult to have a common candidate. In such a scenario, floor-crossing cannot be ruled out. Floor-crossing was seen during the election of Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The panel close to Nepali Congress, however, will not have such a dilemma. However, there are too many aspirants.

ASPIRANTS
Tourism organization affiliated to Nepal Communist Party is likely to field one among Sagar Pandey, Rajendra Sapkota, Kumar Thapa, Tej Bahadur Gurung, Hari Dharel, and Ganesh Simkhada as the presidential candidate for TAAN election. Of them, Simkhada has already said that he would contest the election. Similarly, there are many presidential hopefuls in the tourism organization close to Nepali Congress. Some of them are Khum Bahadur Subedi, Lilabaldab Dahal ‘Kaka’, Nilhari Bastola and Mohan Lamsal.

WHO SELECTS CANDIDATES?
Nepal National Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, which is close to the ruling Nepal Communist Party, selects candidates for the pro-communist panel. Nepal Communist Party Central Committee Member Surya Thapa, who heads the tourism wing of the party, will have a major say in the selection of candidates.
Similarly, National Entrepreneurs Association for Tourism-Nepal (NEAT Nepal) selects the candidates for the pro-Congress panel. NEAT Nepal Founding President Deepak Mahat will have the major say in the selection of candidates as the party has not named head of its tourism wing.

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