In a blatant violation of election code of conduct and subversion of transitional justice, CPN (Maoist Center) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has reached an agreement with some families of those killed in a Maoist bomb attack on a passenger bus at Chitwan’s Badarmudhe. On June 6, 2005 the Maoist party had in the course of their decade-long insurgency detonated a bomb that blew up the bus and killed 38 passengers and injured 72 others. Badarmude falls in Chitwan constituency number 3 from which Dahal is contesting election to the federal parliament. The agreement promises to provide jobs for the families of the deceased, free education for their children and treatment for the injured. This agreement is problematic on a number of fronts. One, all such insurgency-era cases are now being dealt by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was formed with the very purpose of finding out the truth behind conflict-time cases of human rights abuse and compensating the victims. Dahal’s offer of various monetary inducements to some families of those killed in the bomb attack is a clear attempt to subvert transitional justice. Moreover, in a curious case of pick and choose, not all victim families are being compensated.
Dahal had this agreement with some victim families right on the eve of the second phase of the federal and provincial elections when election code clearly bars any election candidate from offering such inducements that could directly impact election results. If a leader of Dahal’s national stature has to engage in such dirty tactics to get votes, one can only speculate about what other candidates have to do to win an election in Nepal. Such brazen attempts at vote-buying by perhaps the most important political leader in Nepal right now also set an extremely troubling precedent. No wonder there has been such extensive use of money and muscle in this election cycle. This in turn badly discredits the democratic process in Nepal. But if our political leaders are reckless and unethical, the Election Commission under Ayodhee Prasad Yadav can also be held responsible for dereliction of duty. It has failed dismally in imposing election code. Yadav is someone who did not even feel it necessary to disclose that his daughter-in-law was running for provincial election from Dahal’s Maoist party. Conflict of interest was clearly not high on his priority.
Whatever the final outcome of these elections, in some ways the results are already being discredited by reports of widespread absentee voting from the first phase, open and extensive use of money and muscle during campaigning, the commission’s lack of credibility, and now, open bribery by a top leader like Pushpa Kamal Dahal. It is sad to see Dahal, who likes to compare his stature to Girija Prasad Koirala, the other signatory of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord, engage in such cheap gimmicks. This lends further credence to the accusation of his critics that the chief instigator of the bloody conflict has never believed in the democratic process. Nor does he have even an iota of belief in transitional justice and inadequate and honorable compensations and reparations for conflict victims.