Agitation Over Provincial Capitals

 

Uttam Maharjan

The government has appointed provincial chiefs for the seven provinces along with the fixing of provisional capitals of the provinces. This has cleared the decks for holding the elections to the National Assembly slated for February 7, 2018. This is a good omen but this has also engendered rage in most of the provinces. Only provinces 3, 4 and 6 are quiet. Other provinces are witnessing agitation of one sort or the other since or even since before the announcement of the provincial capitals. The agitation ranges from general strikes to protests with the administration having had to clamp a curfew in Dhankuta. The people of Bhaktapur are also demanding that their city be declared the provisional capital of province 3.  

The people of the provinces want that their cities or towns be declared the capitals of their provinces in the hope that they will be able to enjoy all sorts of amenities and facilities, which may not be the case. The system of three-tier governments ensures that the people can enjoy state services even at the local level. But the people do not understand this; they think that the enjoyment of the services is governed by the location of the provincial capitals.

Dissatisfaction

On the other hand, the opposition parties are dissatisfied with the announcement of the provincial capitals and the appointment of the provincial chiefs. They allege that the government did not seek their consensus in doing so. The left alliance is threatening that it may reverse the decision of the present government after it has formed a new government. As per the constitution, the government has named the temporary capitals of the provinces. The provincial assemblies can change or retain the temporary capitals with a two-thirds majority at their first meetings. If they cannot garner a two-thirds majority, the temporary capitals will be permanent ones. So although the government is clamouring that the capitals are only temporary, the people cannot rest reassured that the provincial assemblies will change the capitals and declare the towns or cities of their choice permanent capitals.

The political landscape is kaleidoscopic in the country. The high hopes the people held before the elections that the country would turn for the better in terms of development and prosperity have died down due to the inefficiency of the government and political parties. The political leaders assured the people in their constituencies during the elections that they would make this or that town or city the capital of their province. The people bought what the leaders said and made them victorious also. When the people found that their towns or cities were not declared the temporary capitals of their provinces, they flew into a rage and started their agitation.

Not only have the people, even the political leaders and cadres supported the agitation. As a token of support to the people to win their hearts, they are demanding the fixing of the capitals of their provinces as chosen by them. This has made the matter more complicated. However, the provincial governments will come into existence soon and the government and the Election Commission are gearing up for holding the elections to the National Assembly. After the formation of the National Assembly, the federal setup will fully come into existence, thus heralding a new era in the country.

It is not prudent on the part of the government and political parties to dash the popular hopes for development and prosperity. But the state of turmoil now obtaining over the provincial capitals has acted as a spoilsport to tear to shreds such hopes. If this situation persists, it will be difficult, nay, impossible, to run the country along the federal lines.

Here, the role of the government and the political parties gets amplified. In times of peace, all goes well. When it comes to a crisis, the question of the acumen and leadership of the government and political parties pops up. Instead of stoking the fire of protests across the country in a bid to sympathise with the people, the leaders and cadres of the political parties should sit together to thrash out a solution to the simmering crisis over the fixing of the provincial capitals.

The people are now hoping to enjoy the fruits of federalism in terms of development and uplift of the standard of living of the teeming poor. In the past, the Panchayat system and monarchy were blamed for the state of underdevelopment. Now, both are gone. Still, the country has not been able to rise to the status of even developing country. The people are heaving a sigh of relief that the momentum of development will pick up under the federal regime. But the agitation that is going on has acted as a setback in their expectations.

Sagacity

Now, it is up to the provincial assemblies to retain the temporary capitals as permanent ones or name some other towns or cities as permanent ones. The provincial assemblies should exercise proper judgment in doing so or else the popular ire may rise in a crescendo and prevent the federal system from setting itself into motion. Such a situation may be a misfortune for the country and people. Therefore, at this juncture it all depends on the sagacity of the government and political parties for the federal system to move ahead without any hitch.

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