With less than a month left for CA polls, the nation seems to be gradually and steadily heading towards it, despite confusion and fear emanating from lack of adequate and timely action of line agencies related to security and electoral preprations.It may be mentioned that a UML candidate contesting election was shot dead in Bara district, some party workers have been fired upon and people are still not sure whether the Election Commission will provide voter’s ID cards with photo or voters will have to satisfy themselves with identity cards without photos on them. The photo issue is not going to create major problems as long as people get a chance to vote in a fearless environment.Further,with EC recently deciding to solicit private sector’s help in supply of printing paperetc,uncertainty about the availability of right kind of cards has receded. Although nothing can be predicted with certainty, actions and observations of Maoists led by Kiran suggest that they will dissuade people from exercising their franchise without taking resort to force/firepower. They must have clearly understood that any decision by them to take resort to violence will invite matching intervention of some 62000 soldiers of Nepal Army deployed for election purpose. The Maoists also know that nobody can stop them from resorting to persuasive methods to keep voters away. It seems Kiran and his followers will be happy to see a very thin turnout so that acceptability/validity of the election held to frame the new constitution of Nepal could be logically questioned in days ahead.
After selecting candidate for the polls, parties have concentrated their attention on preparation of party manifesto and its publicity, which has clearly revealed that these parties are even today as diverse on major issues as they were before the sad demise of the erstwhile CA.UCPN, Maoist is still in favour of a directly elected president, while UML wants a directly elected prime minister and Nepali Congress is likely to stick to West ministerial kind of governance with parliament-elected ceremonial president and prime minister as chief executive.RPP,Nepal wants rehabilitation of constitutional monarchy and people are giving a patient hearing to its chairman Kamal Thapa’s observations that abolition of monarchy has done no good to the country and its economy. Even Madhes-based parties have failed to come up with a unified voice on the number of provinces in Madhes and the system of governance. While many of them are likely to be happy with two provinces in the narrow strip of fertile land north of India, Forum led by Upendra Yadav wants one province with full autonomy for the region. Major political parties also differ on the number and kind of provinces.NC and UML have been against Maoist proposal of creating and naming provinces along ethnic lines,NC wants 7 to 13 and UML wants 7 multiple identity-based provinces. With major parties appearing poles apart on the issues that could not be resolved by earlier CA, it would be very difficult to give the nation a new constitution within one year as desired by UML. May be some issues will have to be put to referendum without waiting too long to seek the mandate, which would prevent further deepening of the prevailing political crisis. People also want proper attention to be paid to the so far ignored economy, whose growth has remained below 4 percent in most years in the past decade, while high level of inflation has been continuously inflicting injury on the life of low income Nepalese. Let us hope that political parties do not confine themselves to peps talk as far as curing economic ailment is concerned. UCPN-M and NC(reportedly) have projected per capita income of $1400and$1000,respectively, to be achieved in five years. Hope Prachanda, Baburam succeed in doing away with load shedding in three years, generating 1900 mw of power as promised in their commitment paper. Party leaders may kindly note that poor Nepalese in dire need of employment opportunities, drinking water and electricity do not want to hear party’s projection beyond 10 years. Anything we are not sure of delivering should not be promised, let us not forget. Likewise, attention may kindly be paid to see that the projected growth rates are adequate to actualize the wished per capita income over time.
Timely budget in the current fiscal year seems to have contributed towards increasing capital expenditure and eased liquidity crunch, which financial institutions were experiencing in the recent past. Revenue collection is likely to increase satisfactorily and let us hope that election related huge expenditures do not push inflation to an intolerable level. We have to learn to face problems bravely and intelligently like others do. The recent problems in the US over budget/debt ceiling inflicted serious injury on the economy when federal staff remained unemployed for 16 days. Had the cross- party proposal to increase debt limit not been accepted, the shut-down would also harm other economies because the number one economy(US) is still the major global engine of growth buying goods and services from all over the world. It also is a huge borrower of capital. China holds its assets amounting to trillions of dollars in US treasury bonds. During the crisis, China criticized the US government as dysfunctional and signaled that it was contemplating diversifying its dollar assets. Talks also began to surface about replacement of US dollar as the international reserve currency. Hard work by senators belonging to both parties averted the crisis temporarily, if not permanently, which also ended speculation about the US economy and its currency. Politicians there will have to work hard with greater sense of responsibility to avoid the likely recurrence of the situation in the near future. Our leaders have to learn to find political solution to economic problems as is done elsewhere. Constitution framing has to receive paramount importance but people do not want economic issues to be ignored on the pretext of political impasse as has been the case thus far. Not many people are certain the new CA polls would pave way for political stability because a powerful political force is hell bent on disrupting the polls and major political parties, back on mudslinging business, are nowhere near consensus on contentious issues. Crackers will burst all over Nepal to celebrate Tihar,a great festival of Hindus, and continuity of explosions, varying in sound and intensity, till the November15 should suffice to keep the voters not much away from their dwellings from where not even Nepal Army soldiers can drag them to the polling booth. Let us hope the polls remain different, in terms of turn out, from the polls organized for local bodies before the Movement that did away with monarchy. The difference between the two polls is that while political forces then had joined hands with the Maoists to disrupt the polls and isolate the monarch, in the present scenario only a part of the rebels (Maoist) is determined to foil the polls and all other forces, national and international, are determined to have polls on the stipulated day of November. One should not be surprised if the turn out this time is better than the earlier one held during the King’s period. Let us wish ourselves good luck.