An arduous test of democracy in Nepal

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-Prof. Shyam Sunadar Bhatia
The political tempo in this cold weather is rising in the neighbouring country Nepal. The whole Himalayan nation is celebrating the festival of democracy. According to Indian calendar, the polling will take place on 20th of November 2022 and the preparations are on point. Although the date for polling according to Nepali calendar is 4th of November 2022. Interestingly, Indian calendar runs ahead of its Nepali counterpart by 16 days. The results are expected to be declared on coming 8th of December. After a long period of 240 years of royal rule, the democracy took rebirth in Nepal in 2008. However, democracy has swayed like a pendulum in its infancy period in the country and in just 14 years, 10 governments have taken office. Even this time, no alliance is expected to win with clear majority, although nothing can be said yet as the youth are presenting strong competition to the veterans. Since the parliamentary and assembly elections are taking place together, the major contest is likely to be between the respective alliances of current PM Shri Sher Bahadur Deuba and former PM Shri K.P. Oli but they are facing strong contention by the young and independent candidates. The youngsters are going hard on the social media with their campaigns and hashtags #ShapeUp and #ShipUp. Only time and results will tell how strong are the winds of change. To ensure the impartiality, the Election Commissioners of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives have already reached Nepal as International Supervisors. This delegation of ECs led by India’s CEC Shri Rajeev Kumar will be in Nepal till 22 November as the royal guests.
1.8 crore voters to exercise their right
The dual elections in Nepal are set to be held in a single phase only. 1.8 crore citizens will exercise their right to vote for the country. Out of 275 members of the federal council, 165 will be chosen prima facie while the rest will be chosen by the proportional method. Among seven constituencies, out of 550 members, 330 will be chosen prima facie, while the rest 220 will be elected by the proportional method. In general elections of 2017, 63 seats were bagged by Nepali Congress while 53 seats were bagged Maovaadi Kendra. Only the other hand, on the basis of proportional methods, the Vaampanthi alliance was restricted by federal council to obtain two-thirds majority which resulted in no party obtaining a clear mandate. In proportional voting, to obtain one seat, a party or alliance has to cross at least 3 percent of total legitimate votes.
Nepal: from a historic lens
In 1960, the king of Nepal Raja Mahendra Singh dissolved the parliament. As a result of which, democracy was demolished and the royal rule was again reinforced. At first, democracy was established in Nepal in 1951. In 1955, after the passing of Raja Tribhuvan, Raja Mahendra came into power. The king didn’t want democracy in Nepal. In general elections of 1959, Nepali Congress got the two-thirds majority and B.P. Koirala was elected as the Prime Minister. In December 1960, Raja Mahendra abolished democracy. After King Mahendra, his elder son Virendra Veer Vikram Shahved took the throne. Last, in 2015, a new constitution was enforced in Nepal while it is still opposed by the Madheshis.
Stability: The focus of every party
This election is being fought on the grounds of political stability. Nepali congress alliance has promised the citizens to give a stable government but they are lacking people’s confidence. The reason is not the Nepali Congress but the presence of a key member of the alliance, the Vaampanthi Party CPM (Maoist Centre). CPM (MC) Chief and former PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachand openly boast of the making and falling of governments in the past. However, CPM has also pledged to give a stable government this time. Although there are several contenders, but the main battle is supposed to be between current PM Shri Sher Bahadur Deuba and former PM Shri K.P. Oli. Nepali Congress and Vaampanthi politicians are blaming Oli for the political instability who dissolved the parliament after getting lesser votes. Later Supreme Court restored the parliament. Former CEC of Nepal Shri Ayodhi Prasad Yadav says that the kind of election methodology we are having, it is leading us to a trilateral parliament.
Elections are the soul of democracy: Deuba
“Elections are the soul of the democracy”, said 76-year-old PM Shri Sher Bahadur Deuba in a video message while addressing the nation. He further said that Nepali Congress has been at the forefront of every social and political movement in the past. Hence, it is the responsibility of the Nepali Congress to lead Nepal into the path of development and prosperity. The five-time PM Shri Deuba promised that his government will work for the youth of the nation. Since the youth are advancing in science and technology, we will lead the nation with their help and new-age thinking. CPM (MC)’s Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachand declared the election on 20th November to be the battle of supremacy between the progressive and oppressive powers.
The security from land to the skies
The Electoral Commission of Nepal has taken severe measures to ensure fair and smooth conduct of the election. CEC Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapliya told that the Indo-Nepal border has been ceased for 72 hours. Interestingly, Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh share a large boundary with Nepal. No VISA is required to trespass the border by the citizens of both the nations. The three-levelled security is deployed at the polling booths along with the aerial patrolling. A total of 10,892 polling booths, 412 temporary polling booths have been established which will be guarded by more than 2 lakh security personnel. This time, first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral bonds will be counted in first phase, first for general assembly then for legislative assembly. For proportional allocation, the counting of votes will be done after FPTP.
The gifts from India to Nepal
India has gifted 200 vehicles to different Nepali security and government agencies for the smooth conduction of the elections. Indian Ambassador Naveen Srivastava has handed over these vehicles to Nepali Finance Minister Janardan Sharma. According to Indian Embassy, out of 200 vehicles, 120 will be used by Nepali security agencies while rest 80 will be used by Election Commission. This is not the first time that India has lend a helping hand to Nepal. Till now, India has gifted over 2400 vehicles to Nepal. Embassy informed that out of those, 2000 vehicles Nepal Police and Armed Police Force while around 400 vehicles have been gifted to Nepali Army and Election Commission. Nepali Finance Minister Shri Janardan Sharma hailed India for providing help during elections by gifting 200 vehicles. On behalf of Nepali government, I heartily thank Indian government, he further added. Remembering the age-old development partnership between Nepal and India, he mentioned help lend by India during devastating earthquake of 2015 and COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that after introduction of new constitution in 2015, this will be the second general election. “Elections are essential for democracy, peace, development and political stability”, he further stated.
( Writer of this Hindi article is a research scholar and senior journalist. Translated by Dr. Arpit Huria)

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