When the head of the government doesn't follow rules and regulations, it gives others ample reason to do likewise

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has drawn flak for violating the election code of conduct on the eve of the National Assembly (NA) by-poll held on Thursday. As the executive head of the government, he should have known better about following the election code of conduct in both word and spirit and setting an example for others. Instead he has been censured by the Election Commission (EC) as well as political parties in the opposition for soliciting votes for Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa on Wednesday during the 'silence period' imposed by the EC, in violation of the election code of conduct. Thapa, who lost his NA seat after switching parties from the Maoist party (CPN-Maoist Centre) to the CPN (UML) following the reinstatement of the House of Representatives recently, is contesting the by-election for the Upper House seat in Bagmati Province against two other candidates – Khim Lal Devkota and Krishna Bahadur Tamang. While Devkota has been fielded as the consensus candidate by the opposition parties, namely the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal, Tamang is from the Nepal Workers and Peasants' Party. Thapa must win the NA seat if he wants to keep his post. The Prime Minister made the appeal to the electorates to vote for Thapa as the Madhav Nepal faction in the UML was expected to back Devkota instead of Thapa in the by-election for the NA seat. There were altogether 348 voters – 110 Bagmati Provincial Assembly members and 238 chiefs and deputy-chiefs of local levels – rural municipalities and municipalities. PM Oli's appeal even during the silence period that began Monday midnight – despite the whip issued by UML Secretary-General Ishwar Pokharel to vote for Thapa – means that fissures in the party have not healed. Although Madhav Nepal and his followers are still with the UML, it is well-known that he and PM Oli have been at daggers drawn ever since the latter refused to step down as the prime minister on completion of half his five-year term. On May 11, Prime Minister Oli lost the crucial vote of confidence in the parliament after 28 lawmakers of the Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath faction abstained during the voting.

The Prime Minister's violation of the election code of conduct is deplorable to say the least. When the head of the government doesn't follow rules and regulations, it gives ample reason for others to do likewise.

PM Oli's high-handed manners have been seen once too often in recent times – from dissolving the House of Representatives at will on December 20 last year to his refusal to utter the words 'I promise' during the swearing-in ceremony as the third-time prime minister. Such bullying tactics do not bode well for his image. Apart from the Prime Minister, media outlets too have been found flouting the election code of conduct during the three-day silence period by predicting the winner of the by-election and interviewing people to influence the poll. Only when everyone plays by the rules can we expect democracy to foster in the country. We could see a repeat of such activities that go contrary to the code of conduct in the future if the EC does not penalise the wrong-doers and is content with issuing press releases.

Focus on COVID-19

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued a circular to all the local levels to put in more efforts in the fight against the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has also affected the rural parts of the country, not seen during the first wave of the pandemic last year. The circular has asked the local levels to accord first priority to preventing and controlling the spread of the coronavirus in the communities.

Besides raising social awareness, the local levels are also required to regularise the supply of essential goods and services and maintain the standards of the quarantines centres that they have established in their respective areas. Reports from various local levels suggest poor condition of the quarantine centres that lack basic amenities such as oxygen cylinders, ventilators and essential medicines. The local levels can fully utilise the resources that they have at their disposal in combatting the virus. The most challenging task at present is to supply oxygen cylinders to those in need. The ministry could help them by supplying oxygen cylinders, equipment and medicines to the local-level quarantine centres, which are running in low capacity.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.