What The Local Elections Say

Prem Khatry

 

Ballot and bullet stand in a totally different background and position themselves in a totally different power bases.  One forces the other side to confront with devastating and destructive weapons while the other allows the mind to speak, follow the truth and decide the fate of all who form the collective.  When the bullet shatters human body with all its interiors and exteriors, ballot joins the ailing joints very carefully and very meticulously. Thus ballots are now substituting the bullets gradually and globally.

Historic

About two decades ago, there was a louder and killer bullet sound in the Nepali sky. Life was not safe; it was not easy, either. Nepalis’ face was drawn, tense and showed no hope for the country.  Gun sounds brought despair, destruction and death. A decade-long war pulled the country's growth to a very low level.  Finally, a memorable evening came.  In a flashy light at Prime Minister Girija Prasad's official residence at Baluwatar, Maoist supremo Prachanda made historic appearance in front of the media and millions  Nepali watching with great sense of rejoice and jubilation, the gun was laid down.

As Prachanda lifted the pen to sign the peace treaty in front of the media, political leaders and the entire people who had access to the media, the pen had actually won because  Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda himself admitted and repeated many times over that the war was entering a phase where nobody was likely to 'win.'  He must have asked his heart many times over as to the final outcome of the lengthy war, and it must have responded that winning after big killing had no meaning for a small peaceful country like Nepal.

            A devout and committed communist had abandoned the ideology that ballot for the sake of parliamentary democracy based on election was not his cup of tea.  The entire world outside the PM’s residence at Baluwatar had seen the victory of pen to down the gun.

            Prachanda himself   sat on the PM 'throne' two times. In order to keep the spirit of  his word given to the NC supremo Sher Bahadur Deuba,  Prachanda relieved himself from the job of the PM. Modern history writer will have difficult times to judge such dramatic   moves the leaders make at times. Yet Prachanda did one thing good at the last minute of his latest political career – pave the way for Deuba to occupy the 'throne' in the spirit of good faith.

At a time when the country is facing multiple challenges from every single front in terms of security, economy, foreign relation and brake/check on corruption and restoration of a clean government.  No one is in a position to say when actually Nepali people will enjoy good governance.

Another good thing that happened during the tenure of Prahanda was the local election. The Bullet man did all he could to make this happen after two decades of confusion and uncertainty. People enjoyed exercising their right during the election times.  Elderly people aged over a century were seen on the long lines.  A few old people and some youngsters lost their lives while queuing up for their wish to elect their local representative who would speak for them and work for them to bring change in the society, economy, and overall wellbeing of the people and the country. Our heart must go those people who lost lives for democracy at the grassroot level.

Why were people so enthusiastic this time around to cast their ballot? Obviously, all Nepalis took this opportunity they have after two long decades and there is no reason why not. Second, Nepali democracy over the decades has seen more falls than rises. They have seen how rulers and leaders or people's representatives have lost credibility, transparency and honesty and spent a very greedy unbelievably luxurious life for themselves and nothing for the poor people who have carried all kinds of ladders for them to reach and stay in power, for decades, years.  People thus were fed up with the misrules they witnessed over time.

This is the time to take stock of what leaders have done, what the people have seen and how the small, peaceful nation has fared. This time they assess the past and show the road for the future – all using the most powerful weapon they have – the ballot paper in their hands.

According to the media and the Election Commission updates, people came out to the election booths with unprecedented scale and numbers. Some districts in the east had nearly 80 per cent votes cast. The lowest was above 60 per cent and this is phenomenal. This shows how people wanted to help build democracy at the local level. The people know they don’t have to look at Singha Durbar for small problems that come on their way to progress.  They can directly approach the concerned agency of the government at the apex should there arise such problems. Also, from now on the local elites, leaders and villagers can sit under a tree and discuss or plan development agenda that come to their mind and heart as priorities. There is no need to hire an expert or look at the National Planning Commission that sits inside the Singha Durbar and feels political kicks every time one government falls and another one rises.

Our planning has been very defective that way. Why kick at the National Planning Commission as if it is a fraternal organ of the government? Why is it that our leaders cannot work with a group of an independent thinkers and planners? Why do they need a staunch follower of their party who can direct all the big money to their villages as if Nepal is not their priority? From now onward people must give strong responses to such idea and plan their own development on non-partisan basis. The newly elected representatives must forget their party and become true representatives for the sake of development. This is how democracy will have strong roots at the village and municipal councils.

Lessons

Finally, the Pradesh No 2 must learn from the experience of the rest of the provinces after the elections are over. They must give a strong and unforgettable lesson to their selfish and short-sighted leaders that Nepal is and will remain united regardless what. Local elections are the only means to progress, stability, security and sustainability. Bullet sounds were heard even during this phase of election. By the time the Election Commission provides election schedule for this Pradesh, bullet sounds must go and make conducive environment for the ballots. This is what we are hearing from the recent round of election. And the country cannot afford to hear another sound from one region that is equally dear to our heart and mind.

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