Consensus eludes local bodies’ formation

Kathmandu, March 7:

While delivering the annual budget in the legislature-parliament on September 19, Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai had announced that an interim apparatus will be established by mid-January 2009 in the local bodies until fresh elections are held. But the local bodies are still vacant, affecting the budget implementation at the grassroots very hard.

Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Jha says, “I tired a lot to form the local bodies through the nomination but some parties opposed it and my effort failed.”

Jha held many rounds of talk with all political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly to reach a consensus on the contentious issue, but to no avail. He failed to bring into confidence the political parties, specially main opposition Nepali Congress, for nomination in the local bodies.

The NC officially decided Congress on 22 February that the local bodies should be formed through election. NC spokesperson Arjun Narsingh KC says, “We believe in democracy. So we are against the nomination. Election is the only option to fill the local bodies.” The CPN-UML general convention changed its stance of nomination. Jha said, “Our Butwal convention stood against nomination in the local bodies and passed a document in favour of fresh election.” Not only the NC and UML, but also other fringe political parties are in favour of election. But local elections are impossible at present as the whole nation is focussed on constitution drafting process. Only the Unified CPN-Maoist is in favour of nomination, based on the number of votes in the CA election. In this scenario, the chances of formation of local bodies look slim.

There are 3913 VDCs, 58 municipalities and 75 DDCs across the country. The civic bodies are without a elected representative for six years, facing many problems regarding the implementation of development projects.

The failure to form a legitimate mechanism in the local bodies, development programmes have been adversely affected. Krishna Prasad Sapkota, former president of the Association of District Development Committees of Nepal, said, “An elected body is a must to ensure transparency and accountability on development programmes.” Through the annual budget speech, the government doubled the funding for the local bodies this year compared to the previous years.

Jha says elections are is impossible and the political parties must come to a consensus to form local bodies. Or else, he says, the development projects will not give the desired results.

At a time his own party is against the nomination in the local bodies, Jha says, “I will hold another round of talks with all parties within a day or two on the issue. They cannot just escape from the responsibility of resolving the problems dogging the local bodies.”