Monday, April 14, 2008

Price of overconfidence and selfishness!!

One usually gets more benefits as they get more experience in their field. This usually and in most cases rightly is based on the assumption that more experience allows one to see a bigger picture in current and future context. One matures as they learn from their mistakes and is less likely to make similar mistakes. This does not apply to politicians specially if they happen to be Nepali politicians.

The constituent assembly election in Nepal which got postponed twice and finally was held on April 10 had such a denouement that outcome not only stunned the people who lost but also the people who won. Majority of so called experts had predicted the stalwarts from Congress and UML would hold their forte with Maoists grabbing some seats in remote areas. These experts just got big slaps in their face because Maoists are certainly heading towards a simple majority at the expense of the stalwarts. Is this a fluke? Here is a an effort in sensible rationalization of the outcome with top five reasons in ascending order.

1. Postponement of Elections: I believe that elections got postponed twice not because it was not feasible but because Maoists were not ready. They knew that they only had influence in remote areas. If elections were to be held, they would mostly win in those remote areas which could easily be blamed on fear and coercion. So they bid their time, gathered enough momentum in rest of the countries and once they were assured of some support in non remote areas of the country, they agreed for poll.

2. Fear: Just before the poll, Maoist chieftain made an statement that if poll results were not in their favor, they would go back to uprising. People were already tired of killing of thousand of innocent people, daily strikes and uncertainty. Fear of going through the grind worked made people vote for them. Add to top of this the fact that some candidates could not even go to their constituencies for prepoll activities. See my previous blog.

3. Overconfidence: The stalwarts believed what election experts had to say. They stayed at their cozy homes in Kathmandu when they should have been spending time in their constituencies understanding the ground realities and common people's aspiration. They assumed that people would not want Maoists who simply were portrayed as bunch of goons.

4. Selfishness: This primarily applies to parties from Madhesh. Mahanth Thakur formed TMDP after being a member of Congress throughout his life. He came to realize that Congress was not doing enough for Madheshi people. This came too late (few months before the election) which shows lack of foresight on his part but there is a saying, "It's never too late." MJF came to limelight because they fought for Madheshi's right. I think what they have done for Madheshi people in last one year is more than what Congress/UML/Sadbhawna have collectively done in past 15 years. MJF and TMDP did have wisdom to think about forging an alliance for the election but effort failed because they could not agree on how many seats each should get. To me it's very simple if you put Terai and Madhesh' interest before your party. But they all wanted a bigger share of the pies which ultimately resulted into none of them getting enough share of pie to be called a force from Terai. I find more fault with Mr. Thakur.

5. Need for Change: People gave a clear majority to Congress in the first election that was held when King Birendra yielded to democracy. Congress squandered this majority and instead of focusing on people, the leaders focussed on themselves and split their party. Same thing happened to UML. People witnessed many permutations of Koiralas, Nepals, Deubas, Thapas and Kings during these years. None of them showed will to stand for people and hence the need for change. Maoists talked about bringing a change in very simple terms which common people could understand and results are there for all to see.

I always see the proverbial glass as half full instead of half empty. I believe that everybody should get a chance. Where it's a fluke or hard labor, Maoist have been given a mandate to bring a CHANGE in Nepal. They should grab this opportuny with both hands and show the whole world that they can walk the talk. I will certainly be hoping for that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

what is a fair election?

It's about 2 AM in the morning and the more I try to sleep, the more thoughts come into my mind. Instead of flipping in my bed umpteen times, I decided to let it all out over here.

Nepalese people participated in a historical election on Apr 10. Yes, it was historical because Maoist guerrillas who have been waging a so called "people's movement" decided to lay down arms and join democratic political process. Whether it was really a people's movement that's a topic for different blog but let's talk about this election here.

According to Nepalese Election Commission, there was about 60% polling which by any standard is a success. But the commission as well as some foreign observers affirm that poll was fair except some booths where some irregularities were observed. As of today, the commission has decided to do a re-polling on 70 of booths. But what is a fair poll process? I believe in KISS principle so to me a fair poll process is process where each concerned party has equal opportunity to share their manifesto and future plan with general people AND people vote without any fear or coercion.

It's very well known fact that some of candidates (Surya Bahadur Thapa in Dhanusha for an example) could not even hold a rally in their constituency because Maoist or other parties did not let them. Poll was supposed to start at 7 AM in morning in constituency number 6 of Sarlahi district and booth was closed without a single person voting because all ballots had already been stamped. I am sure these people formed part of 60% that the election commission projected. In terms of security, there were one police with a gun and three polices with baton in most of booths as per my conversation with friends whom I talked over the phone on the day of voting. Commission proclaimed that they were fully prepared for the election. What the heck?

I sympathize with the commission that they did not have enough time to prepare. So why was the election not split in two or three days if there were not enough resources??

What bothers me the most is so called independent observers including honorable president Mr. Carter. Carter center called the election remarkable and excellent. My question is what benchmark and data set were used to come to this conclusion? As per my conversation with folks across different constituencies in Terai region, they did not come across any foreign media and observers. My question to the Carter center and to Mr. Carter is this: Is visiting polling centers in Kathmandu and Pokhara enough? Did you consider visiting areas which were known to be problematic to assess preparation? Is this what expected from the Carter Center? Can somebody fill me with the details please?

Off to bed....