Local Elections: A Dream Come True

 

Prem Khatry

 

In recent political history, idea of an election invites mixed reaction in the mind of the Nepalese people, to say the least. There are reasons for this. One really has to go back through the memory line to remember the year the last local election was held.   It turns out to be more than 19 long years. That is, a person who entered a government job in the election year is qualified to earn a pension this year.  A democracy brought after thousands of people laid their lives was rendered almost orphan in terms of local representation through bona fide elections. This in itself is a record of some kind.  Nepal didn't have a record so frustrating and so humiliating throughout the entire history when local elections were stopped. But the new election will bridge the time gap.

 

Opportunity vs challenges

 

In any case, the May 14 election is both an opportunity and a challenge for those who have stakes in it. A considerable section of the political leadership is not in favour of election as it does not bring them joy supposedly emerging from the disintegration of one major part of the country planned for a long time now. It is planned in the name of federalism, but many now believe it leads to permanent disintegration. Some may expect and claim support from unknown sources beyond the border.

The off-border influence is bringing considerable fluidity in assuring implementation of the constitution itself. From day one of its promulgation, the constitution hangs in a limbo. However, the Election Commission declared the election and asked all concerned to engage in preparation of the highly significant election at a time when the future of democracy hangs in a very delicate balance. This is not a healthy sign for the smooth functioning of a democratic society and culture.

In fact, the political parties have not made many issues clear through their election manifesto. Isn't it time it should appear by now so people could rest assured about the emerging agenda for development? The Prime Minister is expressing his determination to hold the election even in two phases should such a situation emerge.  People in the so-called 'troubled' region such as the Pradesh Two are with him also, but a section of leadership is distracting people's attention with this pretext or that. The last two Constituent Assembly elections have not been proved favourable for some high profile leaders in this and other areas of the country.

This could be one reason why the leaders think it better if no elections were held until some decisive moment comes. Obviously, the bell has to be rung from the other side of the school compound, and only then the 'students' will run to the 'class.' The very strange feeling running here is that our gurus are not as convincing and efficient as they should be even keeping the time and the tool that rings. So for a better sound that lasts, you have to go beyond and listen to the music that needs to be adapted. What a situation for our leaders to face!

People say one half of their mind has to always travel back and forth than concentrating on the issues that govern our national interest, national pride and prestige of being an independent democracy. Who can best tell us how to go to the people at the grass-root level and help them create a solid democratic base to plan and implement a fast-track development agenda? Who is our guardian? Who is our benefactor if not us?

One agenda for all

Leaving other issues aside, there is one concept that comes to the mind of this scribe when it comes to the electioneering propaganda kit this time.  This is because no due attention is seen given in earlier elections. That issue is – an urgent need to address on the preservation of culture for the development of the nation.

When it comes to deliver a lecture, our leaders are not tired of making promises, outlining the plans for development and create Heaven on earth.  There is hardly any literature in their concerned political kit that addresses culture. This is the reason why this agenda has to be signaled out during the local election this time.

 First, this is the local level election and this is where all manifestations of culture exist – tangible and intangible. So the local leadership can be motivated and guided to the many steps of safeguarding and preservation of culture. Secondly, even in terms of resources the local leaders know the best way of pulling them from various sectors and make the sectors partners. Third, the government and UNESCO as co-partners make necessary intervention when this is required.

This is the time when the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) is collaborating with UNESCO in inventorying and safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of Nepal. It is important for the political parties to underline the significance of this pact and express their solidarity as well as commitment to work in this field. Local youths and students can be the best resources to implement such plans prepared by MoCTCA or, for that matter, by UNESCO. While reading the election manifesto of the parties the voters will also be educated and duly informed about the significance of their cultural property that can be preserved for the sake of tourism, employment generation and promotion of culture. 

Responsibility

The government and UNESCO give the responsibility of preserving culture to the local communities as the creators and users of culture. This has been the good practice in Nepal for the entire time in history. This is how culture has been preserved and handed over to the new generation.  Only in more recent times, there are some challenges in the process. The involvement and commitment of the political parties in this field is thus necessary and meaningful.

Finally, the government and UNESCO can organise several rounds of discussion meetings with the students and youths belonging to the political parties.  Involvement of students and youths in the culture preservation campaign is crucial from different perspectives. At this time, the political parties will do great service to the nation if they include ‘culture’ and ‘preservation’ agenda in their election literature now and start making action plans once they form the local government. This is the scribe's one heartfelt way of wishing them all a very Happy New Year and success in the upcoming election!     

 

 

 

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