Local election fever has gripped the nation. While there is still a suspicion as to whether or not the poll would be conducted on time, there are growing indications in favour of elections across the nation. Political parties have penetrated into villages and towns throughout the country for conducting election campaigns. Likewise, aspirants to contest the elections have started thronging the residence of the powerful leaders of their respective parties seeking tickets of mayors of municipalities and chairmen of Gaunpalikas. However, still the chance of holding election in many areas of Province 2, which is consists of eight Teai districts, seem slim amid the dissenting voices of the Madhes-based parties.
With the election environment becoming congenial, various discussions have emerged at the local levels regarding the significance of choosing the right person to the coveted posts of mayor and ward Chairperson among others. Interestingly, Kathmanduites have also been engaging in intense deliberations in this matter. The mainstream media of late have run many news stories and analysis on the prospective candidates of the mayor from different political parties.
Popular names of the prospective candidates for the mayor have started emerging although official confirmation is yet to happen. In the Nepali Congress, the names of Gagan Thapa, Tirthaman Dangol have surfaced. In the UML, Yogesh Bhattarai’s name is making headlines and from the ruling Maoist Centre, Renu Dahal is being projected.
As per Article 216 (5) of the new constitution of Nepal 2015, the major criteria for election to the office of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Ward Chairperson and member include: being a citizen of Nepal, having reached 21 years of age, a voter whose named is included in the electoral rolls of the concerned municipality and not being disqualified by any law.
A critical analysis of the constitutional provision suggests that the qualification criteria fails to incorporate basic academics, skills and experience that may be required for discharging duties and responsibilities associated with such positions. While there is no strict requirement across the globe that academic criteria be set for such posts, a general level of education should definitely have been provisioned in our context. In other words, there is no bar for illiterate people to run the election if he/she meets the above mentioned criteria.
The prominence of a competent mayor in the present context of Kathmandu Metropolitan City can hardly be exaggerated. At a time when the Kathmanduites are facing the worst environmental crisis in history owing to the haphazard road expansion project, the need of a towering political leader who can rid them of this problem is strong. Ranging from the acute shortage of drinking water to the mismanaged public transportation system, strategic interventions have remained a long overdue. In the absence of a clear policy direction and effective monitoring and supervision, Kathmandu has turned into a chaotic city which fails to meet the basic standards to become the capital city and a metropolis.
In the past, Kathmandu witnessed some major accomplishments under the vibrant leadership of a far-sighted mayor like Keshav Sthapit. Popular as a hands-on mayor who wouldn’t succumb to political pressure, Sthapit worked wholeheartedly to make the city a beautiful place to live in. From the construction of Maitighar Mandala despite political opposition to allowing the street vendors to conduct business in the appropriate time, his decisions were in the best interest of public.
In light of the above, Kathmandu is looking for a far-sighted mayor who can transform his policies into actions and bring respite to the city dwellers. Instead of a loyal sycophant of his/her party, a leader who can rise above the non-partisan interest and stand firm for the cause of the public welfare is the need of the hour.
With a five year fixed appointment as mandated in the constitution, a mayor with good intentions can definitely carve a path of social and economic development in town. Mobilising local resources and ensuring smooth coordination among the line agencies of the government, accomplishing the stipulated goals can be easy. But at the heart of this will be the intention of the leader. In other words, if the leader desires to initiate change or just add his name in the list of mayors will be a determining factor to shape the destiny of the city and citizens.
There is a historic opportunity ahead of the Kathmanduites to elect the right candidate to the post of the mayor. Rather than casting vote based on ideological affiliation, it would be better to support the candidate with right vision and demonstrable action in the past to transform the city. Failure to do so will once again result in a chaotic Kathmandu which can never be converted into a hub of economic, cultural and social excellence. Hence, the onus is on us to make an informed decision in the upcoming local election.