Forcing people into by-election to fulfil one leader’s wish to get to power is mockery of reason and travesty of democracy
In the past 29 years Nepal has gone through a sea change—from restoration of multiparty democracy to the Maoist insurgency to federal democratic republic. It all happened, thanks to the old generation leaderships of all major political parties which played decisive roles in bringing the country to this stage. However, there is always a dearth of leadership change from old to new generation who could lead the country with a new vision and thought. The old generation leaders have always tried to stick to power—be it in their respective parties or government or in Parliament—without giving two hoots to what the general public thinks. Amid this, Bamdev Gautam, a senior leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, now is in spotlight—not for his political credentials but for his lust of power. He now wants to get elected to the Lower House. It has not been even a year since he faced a humiliating defeat at the hand of Nepali Congress candidate from Bardiya-1, his home constituency. He has managed to find a scapegoat in the form of a lawmaker from his own party. Rambir Manandhar who was elected from Kathmandu-7 is set to vacate his seat for Gautam. Manandhar, who is said to be close to PM KP Oli, has “sought permission from the party leadership to step down as lawmaker”.
Gautam had earlier tried almost 12 constituencies from where NCP lawmakers had won with comfortable margin of votes in last year’s elections. After no one agreed to oblige to him, he “convinced” Manandhar to quit. Gautam and NCP leadership are said to have assured Manandhar of nominating him to the National Assembly after two years and subsequently making him a minister. This kind of deal reached in the dark room is an insult to and disrespect of the public mandate given for five years. In a democracy, elections are held periodically. If a by-election has to be held, there are clear constitutional provisions in place—if a lawmaker dies or voluntarily steps down. In this case, both have not happened. Gautam seems to have coerced or swayed Manandhar to vacate the seat for him.
No political party has the right to disregard the public mandate. Why should electors of the Kathmandu-7 accept Gautam as their representative who was rejected in his own constituency? Voters of the Capital city are not that naïve as Gautam and his party may think. A person’s rejection in one constituency means his or her rejection in all constituencies until next elections. This is basic norm of democracy. Other political parties also should refrain from fielding candidates who have already been rejected by the people. Voters should in no way be forced to take part in an unnecessary election. A by-election should not be held only because a powerful leader of a powerful party wishes. Holding an election incurs huge financial burden to the state coffers. The ruling party must bear it in mind. According to the Election Commission, around Rs 500 was spent for every voter excluding the cost for ballot papers, other logistics supports and expenses for security arrangement. The EC will have to spend around Rs 30 million for voter education. Why should the state bear unnecessary expenses? Gautam has already been rendered hors de combat. He should better recuperate from poll shocks until the next elections.
Crammed into a room
Education is a most powerful tool. By giving quality education, a country can equip its children to escape poverty, lead a healthier and productive life and involve them in nation building. But school education in Nepal is still not up to the mark. While poverty is still the biggest bane of schoolgoing children in many parts of the country, lack of infrastructure also is depriving them of education. According to a report from Ramechhap, a school in Manthali Municipality has been running three classes in a single classroom.
The school infrastructure was damaged in the devastating earthquake in 2015. The school principal says nursery, Grade I and Grade II students are left with no option than to cram into one congested room to study. Out of eight classrooms the school had, there are only two now. It is sad that the school has not been able to rebuild infrastructure even three years after the earthquake. Even though one building is being constructed, the school says it won’t be enough to accommodate all the students. The authorities must look into the matter and invest in school education. Education now doubt is the best investment for our future.
A version of this article appears in print on October 11, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.