Meritocracy At Local Polls
The local election fever has more or less gripped the nation though some parts of the country especially in Province 2 are yet to be fully reconciled and geared up for it. The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is against the local polls while the country’s major parties – Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) and the Maoist Centre-- are committed to holding the polls. The Nepali Congress has deputed its central leaders to monitor and tackle the issues in selecting the candidates for the local polls as multiple aspirants have made it tough the party to choose the appropriate and acceptable candidates.
An interesting feature of the impending local poll has been that a new crop of young leaders have shown their interests to contest the democratic exercise at the grassroots. Even senior party functionaries who otherwise would have vied for the national parliament are said to have expressed their interest in contesting the polls at the local level. In fact, the local level elections this time is qualitatively different from the previous ones on different counts. The local governments, unlike the previous local bodies in their new format and incarnation, are constitutionally empowered and strengthened and they have to carry out the onerous roles and responsibilities.
The local level governments are endowed with competencies that are directly wedded to and related with the fundamental rights of the citizens. This definitely demands a set of competent and qualified leaders to head and administer the local government institutions -Gaupalikas and Nagarpalikas – so that the constitutional vision and expectation of the strong and functional local democracy becomes a reality. The current trend and tendency emerging at the local level indicates that the money and muscle have made inroads in the local elections. The political parties seem to be choosing candidates who can afford to finance the poll expenses and mobilise the campaigners and supporters in their own expense and risks. The idealism, integrity and dedication that were once revered have been forced to take backseat whereas muscular politics favoured and patronised by the political party leaders have bulldozed their way to the vital corridors of the power.
This writer is informed by some political functionaries that the yardsticks in choosing and fielding candidates for the local polls has been different from the one used in the past. As the elections expenses are sure to climb up, the candidates who cannot finance on their own cannot make much headway in the tussle for winning the party nomination. The choice of the parties will fall on those who have the resources and capacity to mobilise the cadres in the campaign.
In fact, meritocracy, instead of kleptocracy, should have been guiding criteria to assure that the local government functions and responsibilities enshrined in the constitution are undertaken effectively at the local level. Meritocracy should be combined with democracy to deliver the promises and vision of the constitution of Nepal that has been enacted and promulgated following the prolonged transition in the country. In fact, the transformed and constitutionally mandated Gaupalikas and Nagarpalikas are placed at the critical role as the final point of delivery where from most of the vital services to the citizens should flow efficiently and effectively. Any delays or negligence in the delivery of the services should not be anticipated at the local level and hence could be instantly reacted to and resisted by the people.
It is at the local level that power of people can get its full play and manifestation Moreover, local level governments are also at the role of legislating, regulating, producing and delivering the services which call for the presence of diligent, competent and positive leadership. A good executive at the local level makes a huge difference in the body politic of the country. Only on the basis of one’s own money and muscle power an aspirant should not be fielded by the political parties as candidate at the local level. Neither should people vote for such aspirants as they will bring ruin to the local governments.
The leadership based on meritocracy, integrity and commitment to the welfare of the people can make significant difference to the development of country can be illustrated by the example in the city state of Singapore. Singapore is small in size, but it has a heterogeneous population belonging to the Chinese and the Indian descent in particular.
It has a sizeable Malay and Muslim population as well. But this multiethnic nation is effectively governed, disciplined and well ordered where shared national identity and respect to the sovereign order come first. The credit to this goes to Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew. He provided a strong and an enlightened leadership to achieve a very effective transformation for Singapore as one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
Lee Kuan Yew served the country as the executive prime minister for about three decades and had stayed more or less at the helm of national affairs as the country’s senior minister and mentor till last year. Singapore is said to be the least corrupt country in Asia. This is particularly due to effective punitive measures employed to curb corrupt practices in that country. Harvard educated Lee Kuan Yew who believes in meritocracy writes, "In a different world we need to find a niche for ourselves little corners where in spite of our small size we can perform a role which will be useful to the world. To do that, you will need people at the top, decision-makers who have got foresight, good minds, who are open to ideas, who can seize opportunities.”
Now we in Nepal have new opportunity to invent novel and innovative leaders who can build and transform their villages, turn them prosperous and set good example of leadership ingenuity. Such leaders nurtured, experienced and matured at local level should shine, scale up the summit of politics and give positive and dynamic leadership to the betterment of the country as a whole.