15-21 September 2017 #876

Cash and caste

Birendra Prasad Yadav in Prateek Daily, 2 September

Ahead of the much-delayed last phase of local elections, there is excitement in the air throughout Province 2. People here are happy to be able to elect their own mayors and village chiefs for the first time in 20 years, which can revive grassroots democracy and ensure provincial and parliamentary polls in November.

This marks the successful implementation of the Constitution, effectively institutionalising republicanism, federalism and secularism. But there is a threat to our democracy, and none of the political parties see it coming. They have only considered cash and caste in electing candidates. Only those who could splurge or attract caste vote banks were given tickets.

This has sent a message: you have to be wealthy to venture into politics, your ideology or loyalty to your party alone will not get you an election ticket. This trend will only encourage corruption, entrench communal polarisation and erode democracy.

In a weak democracy, public anger will fester and Nepal could plunge into another cycle of conflict and instability. In the Tarai, more than a dozen VDCs have been merged into single village councils, with populations exceeding 30,000. Bigger constituencies mean more money must be spent campaigning, which the poor but honest cannot manage.

In India, we have seen a tea seller becoming Prime Minister. That may be too much to ask in Nepal for now, but the least hope is that a subsistent farmer gets elected as his village council chief. If only capitalists can contest and win elections in a communist-majority Nepal, our democracy is doomed.

(Birendra Prasad Yadav is an advocate and wrote this op-ed for Birganj’s most circulated newspapers.)

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