The political parties are holding rallies on a daily basis over the PM's move with a view to influencing the apex court

The council of ministers on Monday decided to conduct the mid-term elections in 40 districts of Province-2, Gandaki, Lumbini and Sudurpaschim in the first phase on April 30. The elections for the remaining 37 districts of Province-1, Bagmati and Karnali will be held in the second phase on May 10.

When Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recommended the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) on December 20, he had already proposed holding the snap polls in two phases for which the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) has already said that it was fully prepared to conduct the elections on the dates fixed by the government. However, the PM's decision to dissolve the HoR has been challenged in the Supreme Court, which has been regularly holding hearings on the case for the last several weeks. Whether or not the mid-term elections will be held on the dates fixed will depend solely on the verdict to be passed by the apex court's five-member Constitutional Bench. All the opposition parties and even a faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), led by Madhav Nepal and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are calling for the restoration of the HoR, saying that the new constitution does not give the PM the right to dissolve the House.

In spite of the fierce street protests from the oppositions and civil society over the dissolution of the federal parliament, the ECN has said it has already made the necessary preparations for holding the mid-term elections on the stipulated dates.

While briefing the PM the other day, the ECN chief, Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, said that it would make public the election schedule and that the election code of conduct would also be published after holding an all-party meeting in the near future. Thapaliya said there would be around 16.6 million eligible voters for the mid-term polls. The final list of the voters will be made public by March 5. He also said it would require around Rs 7 billion to conduct the election because of the coronavirus. International election observers would also be invited to observe the elections being held in three years' time.

However, the ECN has not been able to resolve the dispute in the NCP that appeared between the Oli and Nepal-Dahal factions following the House dissolution over the party's authenticity and its election symbol – the "sun". The ECN has been saying that it would recognise the party statute that existed before the House dissolution. The dispute between the two factions must be resolved well before the ECN invites the political parties to register for the election. On the other hand, the ruling and opposition parties are holding rallies on a daily basis over the PM's move with a view to influencing the Supreme Court. The apex court also should not delay in delivering its verdict – either in favour or against the dissolution – so that the nation can move forward. The verdict to be given by the apex court will have long-term impact on the country's political future as it is going to set a precedent for future prime ministers. Therefore, all the political parties are advised to wait till the court gives its landmark verdict on the House dissolution.

Trying to influence the court in one's favour will also be construed as contempt of court.

Winter trauma

The recent snowfall in the hills of far western Nepal must have elated the farmers, but it has thrown life out of gear for the people there, with new mothers and their newborns especially having to undergo untold hardships. As per the local tradition, new mothers must bathe daily and live in a shed outside the home, known as a chhaugoth, for a month after delivery as they are considered impure. Living in isolation in a chhau shed, which is literally a cowshed, is already traumatic even in the summer months, and the biting cold only makes it worse in the winter, with women and their babies catching the cold.

It's been decades since NGOs, women activists and the government have been trying to do away with the chhaupadi system in far-western and mid-western Nepal, which requires menstruating women to live outside the home. But tradition is strong in the region, and it is not that easy for women to rebel against it, despite the strong laws in place. It seems efforts to create awareness in the community have not done much to break the tradition. Maybe a good education, especially to the girls, will make the people see reason, and the desired change will come with time.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.