Talking out of their hatLest the parties forget: They cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
Election season is on and the political parties are having a field day. But at whose expense? This is the time when parties come up with big promises. Rastriya Janmorcha has said its primary agenda is scrapping federalism. The CPN (Unified Socialist) has promised up to 200 units of free electricity for households, and announced that it would brand local alcohol. The Nepali Congress has announced free wifi. Besides such freebies, parties have made big promises, just like they did in the last elections, and most of the commitments from last time remain unimplemented. Besides parties, there is no dearth of independent candidates who are making extravagant promises.
Elections in Nepal have routinely become an opportunity for Nepali parties to manufacture lies. While these empty promises have generated headlines, it is important to call them out, for some of them out-step the local government's constitutional boundaries and mislead voters. The constitution has explicitly outlined 22 powers of the local government directly linked to the day-to-day life of voters. It is baffling that politicians who claim the stewardship of democracy and federalism have either ignored or failed to understand that it is not the local government that passes the legislation required to fulfil their unrealistic electoral promises.
Local elections are held particularly to ensure the communities’ participation in governance. As per the state restructuring carried out after Nepal became a federal republic, Nepal currently has 753 local units. There are six metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 246 (urban) municipalities and 460 rural municipalities. Hence, the blanket manifestos produced by the parties first do not make any sense as the needs of one local unit are different from those of another. Political parties have thus created a false impression of the specific roles of the three-tier federal structure of government. They’ve also perpetuated a culture of producing lies to fool voters while making no sincere effort to review past pledges or back their promises and policies outlined in the manifesto.
We’ve lost decades of hard-won progress following multiple mega-disasters and the ongoing pandemic as a country. Collectively, we are losing our sense of hope as politicians have caused more problems than they set out to solve. Our ecological problems are as alarming as our socioeconomic problems, which will be disastrous for the country and the rule of law. But there is a scarcity of integrity, honesty and accountability, as is evident by the manifestos, some of which consist of just a few pages with bullet points to transform the country.
Promises and speeches don't run a country. It requires politicians with courage, ability and resolve to put the nation’s interests first. Lest the parties forget: They can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but they cannot fool all of the people all of the time.