Sense of proportion

Election violence continues to go up, with just a few days remaining for the election. Poll observers are soon descending on the constituencies around the country to see whether the players are honouring the election code of conduct. Attacks on candidates, political workers and others do not fall within acceptable conduct. But increasing violence threatens to take a nastier turn the closer we get to April 10. Amid this, a report, the first of a series on election preparations brought out by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), has drawn attention to intimidation, violence and killings happening ahead of the election. UNMIN has taken note that the Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the CPN-Maoist, has been preventing campaigning in areas traditionally under their control, which has contributed, according to UNMIN, to a climate of fear. In several areas, the charges are true. The old Maoist mentality that the ‘base areas’ of the insurgency days belong to them needs to be shunned in the new atmosphere of electoral politics.

However, other parties, particularly the high-profile ones, are not innocent either. The question is one of degree. So, blame should be apportioned where it properly belongs in each individual case, and corrective or punitive action taken, without letting any extraneous factors colour one’s judgement. This quality is all the more expected of the monitors and observers and the news media. How far the UNMIN report has been able to achieve fairness and balance may well be a matter for debate; but most of the concerns expressed in it deserve attention, including the recommendations. As for the Maoists, while their violation of the electoral code has been indicated in the UNMIN and media reports, there is no less a need to put in proper perspective the violations committed by others. One should also keep in mind that the highest number of cadres killed since the election campaigning kicked off about a month ago belongs to the CPN-Maoist – seven at that.

All need to be careful and alert and critical. Those whose job is to dig out the truth and tell it to the people just as it is must not only be doing their duty impartially and objectively, but also be seen to be doing so in the public eye. Not only are the political parties coming under closer national and international focus for their behaviour, but the election officials, monitors and observers, and other forces of significance will also be under the microscope for the way they perform their duties. Departure from accepted norms will erode their credibility. The stakes in this election are much higher for the country than in any other election it has seen so far. And the Constituent Assembly election is much different from the parliamentary election. Every party with some influence should be represented in the CA properly, because in the making of the best constitution possible, the principal function of the CA, a cooperative spirit rather than bad blood between the parties will be needed most. Every political player of some importance must ponder this and change their ways to make the polls violence-free and credible and the constitution-making process fruitful.