The state of the raceHolding elections without addressing concerns is not sufficient to placate the population in the Tarai
The third phase of local elections, which will be held in Province 2, is only a week away. As the population gets ready for the elections, there is a palpably high degree of excitement. However, the recent floods have caused widespread devastation across Tarai districts. Many people do not have adequate food or shelter and many roads have been destroyed, rendering villages inaccessible. For these reasons, election fever has not reached as high a pitch as it would have otherwise.
The relief and recovery effort following the floods has been of some concern. The government has not been able to deploy relief material swiftly and in an equitable manner. The political parties have been more active in this regard. They have been mobilising resources and distributing relief. However, for the parties, the distribution of relief appears to be a part of their election campaign, prompting the Election Commission to remind now and then of the poll code of conduct which has been in place since August 17. There have been reports that party leaders have stamped party logos on relief materials. They have distributed relief to their supporters and to people they wish to woo over to their side, rather than to the truly needy. In many cases, the parties have even managed to establish control over resources provided through the government. These factors have led to an ad hoc and fragmented response. The central government and local administrations need to rectify this problem immediately by strengthening administrative control over relief distribution and preventing its politicisation.
There are other problems with the electoral process in Province 2. Many of the parties have selected candidates with substantial private resources. The logic appears to be that such candidates will have the capacity to undertake massive electoral campaigns. It is evident that many candidates, especially for the larger municipalities, are spending millions of rupees towards their campaign. There are even allegations that election tickets have been sold to the highest bidder, leading to worries that the elected candidates will seek to recoup their expenses after they come to office, and might engage in unbridled corruption in order to do so. Necessary checks and balances will have to be imposed to prevent such corruption in the future.
Finally, there remains a great deal of anger and resentment towards the central government in the Tarai. Almost all the parties except the CPN-UML have been canvassing for votes and promising the Madhesi people constitution amendment. However, leaders of the main political parties have to understand that only promises of amendment and holding elections will not be sufficient to placate the population. Madhesi concerns have to be addressed. Side-lining the issue would be a mistake. The major parties have to be aware that discontent could spill over in the future. And they have to continue to take measures to ensure that the Madhesi population feels ownership over the new constitution.