Carefully now, Mr MayorElected leaders must abide by democratic norms. Popularity is no ticket to waywardness.
Tired of the old politicos and their constant promises to solve Kathmandu’s recurring problems, people were eagerly waiting for change. And that change was to come on May 13 when Nepal held its second local elections after the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. A strong anti-incumbency and general apathy towards the established political parties led to an independent candidate Balen Shah winning the mayoral race in the capital city. The campaign was well-timed and incorporated a new manifesto which sought to address the city’s key problems.
The most critical issue facing Kathmandu Valley before the election was waste management, which rightly caught Shah’s attention. There were problems galore, but piling garbage had become a menace and needed immediate attention. And Mayor Shah set his sights on ridding the city of filth by proclaiming it as his “first priority”. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for the mayor, primarily because the problems of the people living in the vicinity of Banchare Danda aren’t something that can be resolved overnight.
Recycling waste cannot magically happen with a few political slogans either. To have intent is one thing. You also ought to have the skill to put the intent into practice. Mayor Shah’s ad hoc policy on waste is evident in his half-baked measures on waste segregation. People had taken him at his word when he asked Kathmandu’s residents to segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. They complied only to find that the trucks collecting the waste on behalf of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) mixed the segregated waste, shattering people’s trust in the mayor.
If the City cannot honour its words, how will people trust it with anything? Shouldn’t the KMC and its chief be held accountable for mixing the segregated waste? After all, it had announced that the residents of Kathmandu who failed to segregate waste would be fined. This is just an example. Many have come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that Shah is undertaking the current demolition drive as a diversionary tactic to revive his waning popularity. Undoubtedly, the demolition drive has won him some new fans, but at what cost?
There are due processes which need to be followed when demolishing structures, and it seems the KMC has overlooked vital legal provisions before acting. Shah needs to remember that the mayor’s position is not akin to that of a CEO of a private company; in fact, a vital public entity like the KMC can never function like a private enterprise. Its decisions must be well thought out and its actions socially responsible. There is no need for highhandedness.
From the time the one-time-rapper stood for mayor, he had been able to galvanise a wide support base, largely because he promised a change from the old ways of doing things. People hoped he would run a clean and efficient organisation. But they also expected that unlike some of his predecessors in the post, who openly flouted rule of law and worked for vested interests, he would stick to due process. The democratic process will be in jeopardy if our elected leaders, especially someone of Shah’s potential and popularity, start acting like a law unto themselves.