Cutting through

The trend of resignations by the nominated office-bearers of the village development committees, municipalities and district development committees that had started earlier has intensified with the exit of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa two weeks ago. Besides dissolving the parliament at a time when he was in no position to hold the elections within six months, the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had done another disservice to the nation — the non-extension of the local bodies on the expiry of their five-year term. If Deuba had been able to hold the election after their non-extension, he would not have been the target of severe criticism. But he could not. He did not choose the option of extending their terms because of partisan interest as the main opposition party CPN-UML then held

two-thirds of the local bodies. This has proved disastrous to the nation, leaving a political and developmental vacuum at the local level.

The outgoing government, after it could not win the stamp of legitimacy from the agitating parties, started filling the vacant elective posts, mostly with people close to the RPP, even more correctly, to the faction of the party which ran the government. This had set the Thapa faction on a collision course with his own party leadership. Nominated office-bearers, that, too, outside an all-party framework, formed by a government headed by a Prime Minister who lacked his own party’s support, can hardly represent an improvement over the running of the local bodies by civil servants. Those who have resigned have given various reasons, mostly the grounds of health, domestic affairs, Maoist threats, and since Thapa’s resignation, morality.

The local appointments had been made to assure foreign donors who had been complaining about the difficulties in continuing aid in the absence of elected bodies, besides giving jobs to party workers. But this experiment has failed. The closest thing to the elections one could have in the interim period is an all-party arrangement. But sincere efforts need to be started to create an environment for the local elections. There is no doubt that holding parliamentary elections in the present security environment will be an extremely difficult task. However, if these elections become possible, the local polls had better be held simultaneously, as it would cut through further delay in electing the local bodies as well as drastically cutting the costs of arranging for separate local polls. Ostensibly, the final rounds of Royal consultations are almost over prior to the formation of a new government. Local polls should receive no less importance than the general elections, since real development and devolution of power matter most at the local level.