By P. Kharel
It is a cliché in a minuscule section of the Nepali elite to describe the recent local polls (first phase) as “historic” in that the previous time such an exercise took place was in 1997. And who are to be blamed? Maoists, Nepali Congress and the CPN (UML) are responsible for the blot against democratic process.
The Maoists who presented a 40-point demand but went underground to unleash an armed rebellion in 1996 without bothering even to wait for the SherBahadurDeuba-led government to respond. NC leader Deuba was the one who flip-flopped when it came to dissolving the House prematurely and wanting to change style and schedule that by no account could be termed democratic.
Except for 14 months when King Gyanendra tried his hand at ending the political impasse created by Deuba who dissolved the House of Representative and recommended but backtracked from the pledge to hold fresh polls, the NC and/or UML were invariably in power since 1990. In the last 11 years, NC, Maoists and UML monopolised power. As the party that held the reins of power during crucial period, NC should bear the main responsibility for its incompetence and lack of vision. Next in line are the Maoists who fired the salvos of armed rebellion, described for a decade by NC and UML as terrorist activity.
As such, holding the elections in itself is nothing to be proud of. The excruciating delay of 15 years in conducting even one-third of the local bodies underscores a stark confession of a political crime that deprived Nepalis of their right to timely periodic vote and local governance through elected representatives.
DEVIL IN EXORCIST: The very ones responsible for the inordinate delay in holding local elections are trying to shield themselves behind the “historic” exercise which is but the “first phase”. One of the internationally recognised basic prerequisites of a functioning democracy is periodic elections and smooth transfer of the reins of power to the incoming representatives by the outgoing ones.
Althoughthe vast majority of voters are yet to cast their ballots for rural and city municipalities, the first phase poll outcome gave an interesting package of jolts and taunts. A few opportunistic combinations between the larger four parties did not work any magic. CPN (UML) first the first time emerged clearly ahead of the Congress and the Maoists were reduced to the reality of a poor third.
Outgoing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahalcould not resist trying to gift his daughter Renu a mayoral role at Bharatpur after she suffered a miserable defeat for a parliament seat from Kathmandu two years ago. He even concluded a pact with Nepali Congress for extracting its support for his daughter in Bharatpurin exchange for its support in Pokhara. In the process, the Congress-Maoist combine lost in Pokhara while the CPN (UML), till the time of writingthis opinion piece, has been leading by a small margin since the very start.
In a similar case of CPN (UML)-RPP combination in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, too, things did not work. These and a number of other parties tried similar opportunistic pacts but did not make much headway, as their motive of sheer power whose pursuit superseded principled considerations. Voters were more discerning than the party assessments.
Win-at-any-cost attitude on the part of the parties failed to work. The lesson is that we should either go for nonparty candidates, as practised during the partylessPanchayat decades or dare to take the plunge without compromising principles and stop misleading people.
OVERRATED:Artistes who made big noises by joining political parties did not contest local polls. They want it big or lose it big. The so-called celebrities, many of whom pay their way to limelight and media highlight, join political parties but do not dare seek tickets for local polls. Some want to take the risk of being defeated only in the more prestigious parliamentary elections. But most of them crave for being nominated in the seats allocated for proportional representation.
One of the dubious events witnessed in last month’s first phase polls was premature exit polls and cranky comments on the likely outcome. After a day of analysing the exit polls, however, the same reference to it were dropped abruptly. When only a few hundred votes were counted in a few wards, TV channels began identifying their version of experts who began giving their verdict on the same.
Even as election results trickled in, the mainly Maoist-Congress governmentannounced the withdrawal of criminal cases against activists involved in violent incidents in Tharuhat. Facing a barrage of criticisms, the government the very next day made vague claims of not having done so. Those killed are now martyrs, and 300 activists of tarai-based groups might absolved of their activity during the agitation on the lame argument that theirs were “political” actions or “false cases”.
Nepal’s loktantra 2017!
Behind Phase Poll Tales
By P. Kharel