TOPICS : Political wrangling over local bodies

T he government is gearing up to give political veneer to the local bodies. This is being done obviously to assure political involvement and participation in running the local bodies. These local institutions have somehow been run and managed by the government staff for the last eight years.

This has been the result of the caprice and blunder of the government of the days paralleled by the extra-systemic attack inflicted on the newly developing local government system ushered in Nepal following the dawn of the multiparty democracy in 1990. The erstwhile coalition government led by Nepali Congress and cohabited by CPN (UML) too had turned a deaf ear to the calls to extend the tenure of the local bodies according to the options provided by Local Self-governance Act 1999.

As the debates on the issues pertaining to state reorganisation unfolds with the formation of several thematic and procedural committees in the Constituent Assembly, how appropriate would it be to impose political mechanism on the local bodies without accounting for the effects it will have on the mode and direction of the deliberation on the subjects? The new political inductees if they are installed may seek to influence and dictate the debate to suit their terms.

Democratic election at the local level is therefore the surest way to build responsive and accountable local governance system for which the enactment of the new constitution remains the only option. This is being argued not to oppose the importance of political representation in the local institutions but to rivet the attention of the political parties without resorting to much dilly-dallying to the task of writing of the new constitution that guarantees competent local government in the federal set-up.

Unfortunately, political actors seem interested in grabbing a larger share of the seats for their own parties instead of working out modalities for making local bodies capable and functional. Around five hundred VDCs across the country have been left to fend for themselves without government officials for several years now.

Moreover, the VDC offices and

facilities are in shambles in several districts. A sizeable percentage of VDC buildings had been destroyed fully or partly during the decade-long conflict. Many of the

documents and records have been pilfered and destroyed. And the VDC operation is not completely

rehabilitated in most cases. In addition, a new surge of security related risks in Tarai and eastern hills have affected the functioning of VDCs. The armed outfits in Tarai have

constantly made local VDCs the target of their attacks.

In such a situation, political nominees will not be able to mobilise the resources be it locally generated or the grants provided by the government. Strengthening the technical and administrative capacity of the local bodies as part of the state building process is urgent. Only a strong and rational administrative organisation can support the implementation of the policy agenda.