It is unfortunate that no party has come forward with a panacea to the problem of the country's shrinking economy marked by ballooning imports. Nor have they proposed any panacea with concrete proposals to stop the flight of people for foreign jobs apart from some half-hearted plans here and there
The whole of the country, right from the cities to the countryside, is appearing spectacularly lively due to the local election candidates running a high-decibel campaign with songs and dances, requesting the people for their valuable votes. In the process, manifestos of differing sizes and shapes have appeared with commitments regarding what they seek to achieve in the future for the development of the area. Some of them have been released by the political parties at the central as well as local levels whilst others have been presented as individual commitments by the independent candidates.
Manifesto comes from the Latin word, manifestum, which means to make things clear. One of the first manifestos, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Marx, was made public in the year 1848 when Junga Bahadur Rana was ruling Nepal after coming to power following the Kot massacre of 1847. In the birthplace of parliamentary democracy, England, the first manifesto was made public by John Salisbury during the election year 1900. The political parties in Nepal presented their first ever manifestos during the General Election of 1958, notable among them being those released by the Nepali Congress and other parties.
A manifesto generally consists of four parts. The first part focusses on the background of the prevailing political incidents in the country along with those of the world. It is followed by the ideological position of that party or the independent candidate, as the case may be. The third part consists of the commitments of the candidate, and the fourth one lists the ways and means by which these commitments can be fulfilled.
The political parties of the West, in general, and those of Britain, in particular, are recognised for implementing the manifesto in both letter and spirit after the elections. But in other countries, and especially in Nepal, a manifesto is used to take the people for a ride during the election. After the election, it generally gathers dust in one of the cupboards of the parties.
Manifestos are read by very few persons even in the developed countries and obviously by lesser people in a developing world like Nepal. Still it invariably forms the point of departure for the launching of any election. Manifestos are used more by the media and those endangered few who use it for their activities after they are elected.
A good manifesto should be successful in identifying the problems faced by the country or the municipality in the present case and suggest a possible way out to solve that problem. The problems faced by the country and the municipalities are many, but the most towering of them are the flight of the young for foreign jobs, the ever growing imports and climate change.
The slogan of the Nepali Congress is 'Strong Local Governmental Authority, Developed Village, Developed City'. It has made attractive commitments in education aimed at decreasing drop-outs and increasing retention; in health, to provide health insurance to all coupled with health service in the house itself; in agriculture,- to provide credit cards to the farmers and their classification; in social security, to give facility right from the cocoon to the cemetery; and in taxes, to reduce taxes by increasing the tax base. It has also pledged to have roads and internet services in all the wards, in addition to establishing an employment bank in all the local units.
The main opposition, the UML, has released its manifesto with the slogan 'Base of Socialism, Good Governance and Prosperity, the Government of UML in every Municipality'. In its 47-page-long manifesto, it has sought to distribute dreams which would be nice if they could be fulfilled.
They include improving school education, technical education, health, drinking water, agriculture and infrastructure as well as integrated settlements.
The Maoists have instructed the local units to publish the manifestos highlighting the insult hurled at the people by former Prime Minister Oli through the dissolution of the parliament. Its slogan says that it should be voted to power in view of the present constitution being the brainchild of the People's War that it had waged.
It is unfortunate that no party has come forward with a panacea to the problem of the country's shrinking economy marked by ballooning imports. Nor have they proposed any panacea with concrete proposals to stop the flight of people for foreign jobs apart from some half-hearted plans here and there.
Climate change has, however, received attention from all the major political parties. The Maoists have mentioned about constructing a model village capable of adapting to climate change in every municipality. It has also focussed on forestry programmes for prosperity.
The Nepali Congress has a plan to maintain an information base about the negative impacts of climate change, floods, landslide-marooned settlements, wildfires and the need to notify the people about them. In its manifesto, it has promised to formulate a small and moderate development model for sensitive places like the Himal, mountains and Chure.
The UML has, however, overshadowed all the parties with respect to the pledge made for handling the problem of climate change as it has come forward with an elaborate proposal, such as the construction of embankments, rain water harvesting and, most strikingly, the construction of ponds. The ponds have been given such heightened importance in the manifesto that it has emphasised on the construction of one pond in every settlement. The UML has hit the jackpot because pond construction in the country, more so in the mountains and hills, can mitigate all the rain-induced disasters in the country.
The independent candidates have also hit the news headlines by distributing sarees and bowing down to the voters. In a nutshell, it can be said that the manifestos appear more like a ritual than conveying any realistic message to the public for the overall development of the municipalities.
A version of this article appears in the print on May 11, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.