Creating Environment For Election
It has just been over a week since the government announced the local poll date and obviously it is quite early to talk about how conducive the political environment has become for the election. Even then, there is a saying, morning shows the day. Since February 20 when the election was announced, there are also reports about the possible change of the government itself. For sure, such reports or the political game plans that may be undergoing will ultimately spoil the poll environment. Moreover, no serious step has been taken to convince the disgruntled United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) to ensure its participation in the poll which is first of its kind. Undoubtedly, there is over two months for the poll and the major parties such as the ruling CPN-Maoist Center and Nepali Congress and the main opposition CPN-UML have enough time to hold dialogue with the UDMF and ensure their active participation in the poll. But given the rigid stance of the UDMF and the UML with regard to the constitution amendment bill, there is a slim chance that they will find a way out. There had been efforts, particularly by the government, to secure UML support for the amendment bill for months before announcing the poll date, but all in vain.
The local poll is first of its kind simply because it is being held as per the new constitution. Therefore, it is historic one. It is also so because unlike in the past, the local polls will be more inclusive with regard to women and the dalit, for instance, either the chief or the deputy chief of a local level should be a woman and of the two female members in a ward of the level, one should be from the dalit community. In this sense, once this election is held, a new type of local level leadership is sure to come up. This will ultimately contribute to institutionalisation of inclusive democracy. Forty per cent of about 34,000 local level representatives to be elected will be women as per the constitutional provision. This is really going to change the dominance of men in politics at least at the grassroots level. Therefore, it is hoped that the women as a whole will come forward for the poll. But nothing of this sort has been seen so far.
In his address to the nation on February 28 Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ made it clear that he was under compulsion to announce the poll although political environment was still hazy. And he is correct: there is necessity to either hold all three tiers of elections within mid-January next year as per the constitutional provision or linger on with the political deadlock and ultimately fail the constitution. Of course, the constitution is hard-earned and the country cannot bear the cost of its failure. Following the failed efforts to get the constitution amendment bill passed and thus address the UDMF demands, the government has no option but to move the country toward the poll.
Although the ruling parties have been saying that they are still making efforts to get the amendment bill endorsed by the parliament, it is now unlikely that this is going to happen at least before the poll. Moreover, the kind of amendment proposal over the amendment bill has been registered by the UDMF or the UDMF constituent parties shows that they are still carrying the impossible agenda. The longer they stick to the ‘only two province in the Madhes’ demand, the harder it will be for them to get their demands met. No logic can support such demands. But other issues pertaining to their rights, if there are any, should be addressed. What they failed to understand is how the major parties got divided within and among themselves even when the government registered the bill to make changes in boundaries of province no. 4 and 5 and ensure that ‘plain province’ has no hilly areas. Despite all this, PM Prachanda in his address to the nation reiterated that the government was still firm and committed to take both the constitution amendment and election process hand in hand. But after some time, he will have no option but to carry on with election and put the amendment issue aside for the time being.
It is good that the main opposition UML has started the Mechi-Mahakali awareness campaign in which mass gatherings will be held in different parts of the plains from east to west. This will also help the Madhesi community to know much about the constitution. Since the promulgation of the constitution, the UDMF leaders have presented an ugly picture of the statute in the mind of the people. Although many things have become clear in the last one and a half years, there is much to do to make the Madhesi community aware of the constitution and how their rights are preserved in the constitution in a far better way than in the past and at par with the other communities in the country. It is also necessary to make them understand how some of the UDMF demands make one suspicious. Success of the UML in the campaign will contribute to creating a better environment for the poll simply because the UDMF will also realise some of its illogical stances. But it is also likely that the UML mass meetings will be disrupted in some places.
Increase the Units
Out of many ways to address some of the demands of the UDMF so that they participate in the poll, one is increasing the number of the local level units. The UDMF constituents have been demanding to increase local level number in particularly province no. 2. This is a simple demand and the government should not miss the chance to address this one. As the two major ruling parties, NC and CPN-MC, have made agreement with the UDMF to address their demands in time of government formation, they should also keep up with the agreement so that the UDMF is not disappointed but has some politically face saving points to go for the poll.