Political leaders on ribbon-cutting spree in Lumbini in a bid to woo votersLocal residents say they want the leaders to work on improving the education and health sectors rather than engaging in publicity stunts.
On Saturday, Chief Minister of Lumbini Province Shankar Pokharel laid the foundation stone for an under-construction motorable bridge over Dhangsi stream in Libang, Rolpa. Only 25 percent of the bridge’s construction work has been completed so far.
On January 27, Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel inaugurated the road expansion work along the Siddhartha Highway from Chauraha to Chidiya Khola in Butwal. The expansion work of the six-lane road was started in the fiscal year 2016-17 and was expected to be completed within two years. But the project has missed several deadlines and is unlikely to meet the next deadline of April 2022, since only 10 percent of the work is complete so far. But Paudel nevertheless went ahead and inaugurated the project. He also inaugurated two bridges that were completed a year ago while in Butwal.
According to the local residents, ever since Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called midterm polls in two phases on April 30 and May 10, following the split of the Nepal Communist Party into two factions, leaders of the ruling party have been busy inaugurating and laying foundation stones for infrastructure projects in Lumbini Province in a bid to woo voters.
“The leaders have already started campaigning for the elections. They are in a rush to show that development is happening in their constituencies. They are now trying to expedite work that has been pending since the last elections,” said Birman Budha, 62, of Tulsipur Sub Metropolitan City Ward No. 5.
“They have come back again with fake agendas and activities. We will not be fooled this time,” he said.
On January 18, Baijanath Chaudhary, minister of Physical Infrastructure Development, also the spokesperson of Lumbini provincial government, laid the foundation stone for the expansion of a 6.8 km road that connects Tinau river to Patthardanda Chowk in Tilottama Municipality, Rupandehi.
At the beginning of 2021, Chief Minister Pokharel had also laid the foundation stone for the Sulichaur-Thabang road project in Rolpa and inaugurated Sonatara Lift Drinking Water Project in Swargadwari, Pyuthan, and several other development projects in Kapilvastu, Dang, Banke and Bardiya districts.
On January 25, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had also arrived in Dang to inaugurate a motorable bridge the construction of which was completed a year ago. The programme was attended by Chief Minister Pokharel and Minister of Drinking Water Mani Thapa.
Even members of the National Assembly are busy laying foundation stones for various development projects in the province. On January 27, Komal Oli, a member of National Assembly, laid foundation stones for a suspension bridge at Tulsipur Sub Metropolis.
Civil society leaders in Dang have criticised the inauguration and foundation stone laying spree of the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, ministers and other assembly members.
“Important issues such as education and health have taken a backseat,” said Chandra Raj Pant, a civil society leader in Dang. “The threat of Covid-19 is still high but that has not dampened leaders’ enthusiasm for inaugurations and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. They are again engaging in cheap publicity campaigns.”
Seema Chaudhary, 34, a local resident of Ghorahi Sub Metropolis, says the political parties are going against public sentiment, unable to feel the pulse of the people.
“The leaders should know what people want by now. Rather than spending their time in petty political squabbles, they should work on improving the health sector for the public,” Chaudhary said.
Dhanbir Nepali, 48, a native of Babai Rural Municipality, echoed Chaudhary’s sentiments. “We want development in the education and health sectors. Leaders should work as per the aspiration of the people. But that has never happened,” he said.
Currently, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development in Lumbini Province coordinates the inauguration and foundation stone-laying ceremonies of development projects. Sushil Chandra Tiwari, secretary at the ministry, says the timing of these ceremonies has inadvertently made these occasions look like election campaigns.
“It wasn’t planned that way. Some of the inauguration and foundation stone laying programmes were scheduled for earlier dates but the ministers weren’t free and the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak,” said Tiwari.