Gimme more

The CPN-UML has described as ‘unacceptable’ the proposal put forward by Local Development minister Dev Gurung, a Maoist, before the Cabinet for the distribution of elective posts of the local bodies among the political parties. Under Gurung’s formula, the three parties — the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist — are treated equal, as in allocating the parliamentary berths, but the CPN-UML is insisting that the proportion of seats won by each party in the local elections of 10 years ago should form the basis for distribution. Its contention is that the relative strength of the parties in the last elected parliament was recognised as the basis for seat-sharing in the Interim Legislature-Parliament (ILP). The CPN-UML leadership seems to think it is possible to give the Maoists seats vacated by dea-th and switch-over to regression. Alternatively, it fav-ours creating more posts to adjust them a la the ILP.

In theory, the CPN-UML’s logic is not entirely without merit. It had won a two-thirds majority in the local elections — 56 and 51 of its candidates were elected chiefs and deputy chiefs of the DDCs respectively, compared with the undivided Nepali Congress’ 13 and 14. Similar pattern dominated the picture in the municipalities and VDCs. But, Gurung’s logic is also noteworthy. He says his formula conforms to the pattern followed for the House — an equal number of the DDCs, municipalities and VDCs for each of the Big Three (75 per cent seats for them), followed by the breakaway Congress, NC-D, (15 per cent), and the small parties (10 per cent). Both the CPN-UML and Minister Gurung can support their theses from the same relative position of the parties in the ILP.

It should also be borne in mind that the interim parliament was needlessly enlarged on the insistence of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. The idea of repeating the same mistake for local bodies at the taxpayers’ expense would send wrong signals to the critical public. Besides, the numbers of the DDCs, municipalities and VDCs cannot be increased, so the numbers of their chiefs will have to stay the same. In these circumstances, the CPN-UML stance ignores the completely changed political realities. The Constitution of 10 years ago no longer exists, and a decade-old electoral mandate can only be used as a very crude guide to the settlement of disputes among the SPA constituents. If the Maoists started insisting that they should get more seats because they had their own ‘parallel governments’ in many districts while the elected representatives hardly visited their constituencies, the situation would become even more complicated. Admittedly, it may be argued that the parliamentary distribution of seats could have been better. But that is now beyond repair. Besides, the appointments to the elective local posts will be only temporary. The local bodies should be provided with political leadership as soon as possible, after all the delays made so far. Quibbling over seats in the local bodies at this stage will only reflect poorly on the political leaderships of the parties.