Parties snub inclusion principle in top provincial postsAll chief ministers are male. Constitution is silent on what should be done if the authorities fail to ensure proportional representation.
The Constitution of Nepal envisions proportional inclusion of marginalised groups—women, Dalits, Aadibasi Janajati and Madheshi, among others—in the state bodies. A few laws have also been formulated for the same. But ‘proportional representation’ still looks far from reality, despite long and tireless efforts by rights activists.
Unfortunately, the seven provinces until now have failed to ensure inclusiveness in governance and the election of Speakers. Women and Dalits remain the most under-represented sections of society compared to their population. Aadibasi Janajati, Madheshi, and others have also been deprived of their fair representation in executive positions, although their overall representation in governance appears to be improving.
Of the seven provinces, no province has a woman or a Dalit as chief minister. Six chief ministers are from the Khas-Arya community and one is a Madheshi.
Janata Samajbadi Party provincial assembly leader Saroj Kumar Yadav was appointed as chief minister of Madhesh, while the CPN-UML’s Lumbini provincial assembly leader Leela Giri was appointed Lumbini chief minister. Likewise, CPN (Maoist Centre) leader Raj Kumar Sharma and UML leader Rajendra Singh Rawal have taken oath as chief ministers of Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces, respectively. Likewise, the chief ministers of the Gandaki and Bagmati provinces are the CPN-UML’s Khagaraj Adhikari and the Maoist Centre’s Shalikram Jammakattel, respectively.
Political analyst Indra Adhikari said the political parties are appointing only a few women as ministers at the centre and in provinces, merely to show that they are serious about promoting women in leadership positions. “What the parties are doing is mere tokenism,” Adhikari said.
Pradip Pariyar, a Dalit rights activist, said the way of appointment of the chief ministers, ministers, and speakers in the provinces is “completely against the essence of the constitution” as the constitution advocates for a “representation based on proportional inclusion”.
Of the twenty ministers appointed so far, just three are women. Equally less represented are the Aadibashi Janajati and Madheshi communities, and the most under-represented are the Dalits. Twelve ministers are from the Khas-Arya community, three from Madheshi, four from Aadibasi Janajati, and just one minister is from the Dalit community.
As of now, Province 1 has appointed six ministers—Jeevan Acharya and Durga Chapagain of the Maoist Centre; Buddhi Kumar Rajbhandari and Til Kumar Menyangbo of the CPN-UML; Bhakti Prasad Sitaula of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party; and Nirmala Limbu of the Janata Samajbadi Party. In the Madhesh province, there are three ministers—Janamat Party’s Basanta Kushwaha, UML’s Saroj Yadav, and Janata Samajbadi Party’s Sanjay Yadav.
Similarly, Bagmati Province’s Cabinet has two ministers—UML’s Jagannath Thapaliya and Rastriya Prajatantra Party’s Uddhav Thapa. In Gandaki, Haribahadur Chuman of the Maoist Centre, Sita Kumari Sundas of the UML and Pancha Ram Gurung of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party have been appointed as ministers.
In Lumbini, UML’s Chet Narayan Acharya and Maoist Centre’s Krishnaa KC have been appointed ministers. Karnali province has so far appointed Mangal Bahadur Shahi of the Maoist Centre, and UML’s Binod Kumar Shah as ministers. Maoist’s Khagaraj Bhatta and UML’s Shantosh Sharma Thapa are ministers in the Sudurpaschim Cabinet.
Pariyar, the Dalit rights activist, says the one solution could be to make population-based proportional inclusion of women and all marginalised communities in the provincial governments and assemblies mandatory through legal amendments.
“The laws should be amended or new laws formulated to ensure representation of the marginalised communities based on population,” Pariyar told the Post.
The election of Speakers in the provinces hints at a similar worrisome situation of inclusion. Four provincial assembly speakers have been elected by the time of writing this piece: Krishna Dhital of the CPN (Maoist Centre) in Gandaki; Baburam Gautam of the CPN (Maoist Center) in Province 1; and Bhuwan Pathak of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party in Bagmati. Karnali province has elected a female Speaker, Nanda Gurung of the UML who is from the Aadibasi Janajati community.
Under-representation of women and Dalits, and other marginalised and ethnic groups, Adhikari added, “primarily, is because of the problems that lie within the political parties—in particular, the political culture of their leaders.”
Many organisations related to marginalised communities—women, Dalit and Janajati—are directly or indirectly under the control of various political parties. Some leaders of such organisations also hold office bearer positions in political parties.
“But these leaders and organisations have been blind followers of party leaders, and this is a major problem. Certain ethnic groups dominate these party brasses, but the leaders of the marginalised groups fear challenging the party leaders. They should muster enough courage to challenge party brasses regarding the under-representation of marginalised groups in top positions,” said Adhikari.
Members of the Khas-Arya community are over-represented in leadership positions compared to their population. “It’s high time to talk about the over-representation of Khas Aarya in Nepal. Why are they always over-represented in the state organs?” questioned Pariyar.
Women comprise half of the total population of the country. Muslims account for four percent, Dalits 14 percent, Aadibasi Janajati 29 percent, Tharu seven percent, while the Madheshi community comprises 15 percent of the national population.
Women have been confined to Deputy Speakers in provinces, because the constitution requires that a woman is elected either as Speaker or a Deputy Speaker. Srijana Danuwar of the CPN-UML was elected Speaker of Province 1 on Saturday.
Article 182 (2) of the Constitution of Nepal states, “Election pursuant to clause (1) shall be so held that there is one woman out of the Speaker of Province and the Deputy Speaker of Province, and the Speaker of Province and the Deputy Speaker of Province shall be representatives from different parties.”
Shankar Limbu, an advocate and researcher of marginalised groups, said only the constitution has the capacity to “improve the situation of inclusiveness,” but Nepal’s constitution is defective and can’t check the defiance of the principle of inclusiveness.
“Our constitution does not mention what would happen, if the authorities concerned failed to ensure proportional representation,” Limbu added.