Sudurpaschim fails to elect women, Dalits in chief rolesNumber of women representatives elected in deputy mayor and vice-chairperson positions has also decreased as compared to previous local elections.
A good number of male candidates has been elected to the post of deputy mayor/vice-chairperson during the recently held local elections in Sudurpaschim Province.
The poll results of 87 of the total 88 local units in the province have been announced so far. Male candidates were declared victorious in 21 local bodies—nine municipalities and 12 rural municipalities—in the province. Twenty local units now have males in both mayor/chairperson and deputy mayor/vice-chairperson positions in Sudurpaschim Province.
The Local Level Election Act-2017 has made it mandatory for each political party to field candidates for both the top positions to ensure that one of them is a woman. However, parties are free not to field women if they contest in only one of the two executive positions—mayor/chair and deputy mayor/vice-chair.
CPN-UML’s candidate Jogram Chaudhary in Belauri Municipality of Kanchanpur, Nepali Congress’s candidate Harkaraj Rawal in Panchdewal Municipality of Achham, candidate of the CPN (Unified Socialist) Shiva Bahadur Kunwar in Sanphebagar of Achham and CPN (Maoist Centre)’s candidate Ratan Bahadur Singh of Bajhang have been elected as deputy mayors.
Similarly, Unified Socialist’s Dhan Bahadur Bohara in Bungal Municipality of Bajhang, Congress’s Bhoj Bahadur Bam in Gauriganga of Kailali, Maoist’s Khadak Bahadur Shah in Tikapur Municipality of Kailali and Kamal Singh Bohara in Patan Municipality and independent candidate Ram Bahadur Bohara of Budhinanda Municipality in Bajura were elected as the deputy mayors during the local polls. Among them, only Panchadebal Municipality has a female mayor while all 11 municipalities have males as both mayors and deputy mayors.
Likewise, Khaptadchhana, Chhabis Pathibhera, Thalara, Durgathali and Masta rural municipalities in Bajhang district have male vice-chairpersons. Male vice-chairpersons have been elected in Naugad, Byas and Malikarjun rural municipalities of Darchula district. Similarly, Bardagoriya and Mohanyal rural municipalities of Kailali, Mellekh Rural Municipality of Achham and Dilasaini Rural Municipality of Achham have a male in both chairman and vice-chairman posts.
Lamkichuha of Kailali is the only municipality where females have been elected for both mayor and deputy mayor positions. Congress’s candidate Sushila Shahi has been elected as the mayor while UML’s Juna Chaudhary has been elected as the deputy mayor.
“There are very few women mayor/chairperson and deputy mayor/vice-chairperson since the political parties have yet to accept females in the chief roles. Women's constitutional rights have been violated,” said Chitra Paneru, a Dhangadhi-based women’s rights activist.
In the 2017 local elections, Manju Malasi of CPN-UML and Kausila Bhatta were elected to lead Dipayal Silgadi Municipality in Doti and Bhageshwor Rural Municipality in Dadeldhura respectively. During this year’s elections as well, only two women candidates–Sushila Shahi of Lamkichuha Municipality in Kailali and Ambika Chalaune of Accham’s Panchadewal Binayak Municipality, both from the Nepali Congress—have been elected in as many local units. The rest of the elected representatives are men. CPN-UML had fielded a woman candidate, Pashupati Kunwar, from Sanfebagar Municipality in Achham but she failed to secure victory.
The number of women representatives elected in deputy mayor and vice-chairperson positions has also decreased as compared to the previous local elections. Earlier, there were only two male local representatives elected in the posts with women securing the deputy mayor and vice-chairpersons posts. While UML’s Malasi was elected the mayor of Dipayal Silgadi, another UML candidate Shivaraj Khadka was elected the deputy mayor of the municipality. Likewise, in Bhageshwor, Kausila Bhatta, a Nepali Congress candidate, was elected the chairperson and Padam Bahadur Bohora from the same party was elected the vice chairperson of the rural municipality.
Meanwhile, no one from the Dalit community was elected to head any local units in Sudurpaschim during this year’s local elections. Only two candidates from the community have been able to secure victory as deputy mayor and vice-chairperson. Raj Kala Sarki of the CPN-UML has been elected the vice-chairperson of Himali Rural Municipality in Bajura district while Raju Tiruwa of Nagarik Unmukti Party has been elected the deputy mayor of Bhajini Municipality in Kailali.
Representation of women and Dalits is very low not only at the leadership level of the municipality but also in ward offices. Out of 724 wards in Sudurpaschim Province, only five wards have elected female ward chairpersons.
Gauri Kumari Adhikari of Nepali Congress in Khaptadchanna Rural Municipality-2 of Bajhang; Kalawati Saud of CPN-UML in Godawari Municipality-7 of Kailali; Karuna Chaudhary of CPN (Maoist Centre) in Gauriganga Municipality-8; Renu Kumari Dagaura of Nagarik Unmukti Party in Joshipur Rural Municipality-3; and Maya Bista of CPN (Maoist Centre) in Lamkichuha Municipality-5 are the only female ward chairs.
In all 724 wards, only 14 Dalit candidates won the seat of ward chairpersons. Five from Bajura, three from Kailali, two from Baitadi and one each from Achham, Bajhang, Dadeldhura and Kanchanpur have been elected ward chairpersons.
In Doti, which has 65 wards, and Darchula, which has 61 wards, not a single Dalit candidate won the ward chairmanship.
Out of 69 wards in Bajura, five ward chairpersons belong to the Dalit community while three out of 126 ward chairpersons in Kailali are from the Dalit community.
In Baitadi with 84 wards, only two chairpersons are from the Dalit community.
In Achham with 91 wards, Dirgha Tamta of Nepali Congress in Kamal Bazaar Municipality-2 is the only Dalit chair.
In Dadeldhura with 52 wards, Nar Bahadur Sarki of Nepali Congress BP in Amargadi Municipality-8 was the only chair from the Dalit community.
In Kanchanpur, which has 92 wards, Nar Bahadur BK of CPN (Maoist Centre) in Purnabas Municipality-9 is the sole Dalit candidate elected as chair.
Chakra BK, president of the Nepal National Social Welfare Association, points out that the structure of the alliance is also an obstacle for Dalits to come on top of the leadership.
“The parties have also violated the notion of proportional inclusion. The parties do not seem keen to bring the Dalit community to the forefront,” he said.