8-14 September 2017 #875

Trading tears for votes

Jiyalal Sah in Birganj

Jiyalal Sah

A bullet killed her son. Now she is turning to the ballot for justice, not just for herself but for everyone in the community.

On a calm afternoon in September 2015, when the Constituent Assembly was on the last lap of promulgating Nepal’s new Constitution amidst protests by Tarai-centric parties, Anita Devi Patel (pictured) and her son Chandan, 4, were buying vegetables in Bethari, Rupandehi.

Suddenly, a clash erupted between police and protesters, and she ran for safety, carrying Chandan on her shoulder. But she could not outrun the bullet that killed her son on the spot.

Patel, 27, is now running to become deputy mayor in Pokhariya municipality, near Birganj. The Madhes-based RJPN, which boycotted the first two phases of local elections, has fielded her as its candidate in the last phase of polling, in Province 2 only, on 18 September.

Two days after the second death anniversary of her son next week, the mother of likely the youngest ‘martyr’ of Nepal will try her luck with the ballot box.

“I still cry when I remember my son, but now is the time to wipe my tears off and fight for justice,” she told Nepali Times, carrying Chandan’s photo during an election rally on Thursday, a day after registering her candidacy.

More than 18,200 candidates have entered the fray in Province 2. Of them, 6,627 will be elected as mayors/ deputy mayors, village council chiefs/deputy chiefs and ward council members.

The fanfare accompanying candidates’ registration shows that the voters of Province 2 were desperate for local polls – the first in 20 years – which were postponed three times in a bid to persuade the RJPN to participate.

It’s hard to predict the results of Province 2 polls, but one thing is clear: they will shape national politics. The ruling NC, which won in 226 local councils in the first two phases, might catch up with the UML (276). The UML could further widen its gap over the NC and Maoists by taking Province 2 – which could harden the party’s stand against a constitutional amendment.

If the RJPN and other Madhes-based parties collectively emerge in the lead, they will see it as endorsement of their demand for that amendment. If they lose, they will face a moral crisis. Locals in the flood-devastated province are more concerned about whether elected representatives will fix their problems. “Everything has been disrupted by floods, but this election is giving us so much hope,” said RJPN cadre Manoj Kurmi.

Read also:

Grassroots democracy

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