May 29, 2017 12:45 AM NPT
RJPN poll boycott
We would like to urge the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), the coalition of six Tarai-based parties, to reconsider its protest plans aimed at disrupting the second phase of local election on June 14. The enthusiastic participation of people in the first phase, and reports trickling in from the four provinces that are scheduled to hold election under the second phase, suggest that vast majority of Nepalis want timely local election. And this is the reason the two biggest parties of Tarai-Madhes, led by Bijaya Gachachadar and Upendra Yadav respectively, have decided to take part in the second phase, even though the constitution is not being amended to their liking. Unlike RJPN leaders, Messrs Gachachadar and Yadav seem to realize that boycotting and disrupting the June 14 vote could backfire. Yes, many Madhesis and Janajatis might still have some disagreements with the new constitution, but that cannot be a justifiable reason to disrupt local election.
For this election is not about complex questions of settling the contours of federal Nepal or a referendum on the performance of individual political parties. It is rather about issues that have a direct impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
As a result of the absence of elected office-bearers at the local level—now for a decade and a half—people have greatly suffered, as they found that they could not get even birth and death certificates from their (erstwhile) VDCs without greasing the palms of local bureaucrats. Moreover, the new local units envisioned by the constitution have vastly more powers as compared to the powers granted to such units previously. They will now run schools and healthcare centers, deploy their own police, and mobilize their own resources through taxes. In other words, if these local units can function as envisioned by the new constitution, then, and only then, the heretofore elusive dream of decentralization of power and resources away from Kathmandu will have been realized. This is why there is great public support for timely local election. The likes of Gachachadar and Yadav seem to realize this, while senior RJPN leaders like Mahanta Thakur and Rajendra Mahato seem not to. In this scenario, it is not hard to surmise that the Madhesi parties that embrace local election will have greater public support in Tarai-Madhes, since all Nepalis, Madhesis or Pahades, share the same common dream of easy availability of vital government services and of sustainable development of their locales.
If the main concern of RJPN is that they don’t have a common election symbol, they can contest election under the symbol of one of the constituent parties. Moreover, the Big Three have suggested that if it is feasible to do so they are open to the idea of granting RJPN a unique election system. So there might still be a way out. More than this, senior RJPN leaders also know that the caretaker government is in no position to change the number of local level units after the recent Supreme Court verdict. They would thus do a big favor to themselves, as well as the country and the communities they claim to represent, by unconditionally taking part in the June 14 vote. If you want to establish yourself as credible democratic forces, try to establish your agendas through the ballot box.