Maoist commitment torn in Bharatpur
There is no confusion about who tore the ballots in Bharatpur. Nepal Police under Prime Minister (PM) Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi has already revealed that Maoist cadres, who tore the ballots, have been arrested.
The only remaining questions are why CPN (Maoist Center) tore the ballots and what happens next.
Let us start with the first question. Party cadres, who sit for vote counting, can sometimes tear ballots in the heat of the moment. Such acts cannot be pardoned but the nature of such crimes is less grave as there is part of human weaknesses in that.
That the ballots were not torn in Bharatpur by a single individual in the heat of the moment is gradually being revealed. It is getting clear that it was done in a planned manner with involvement of Maoist Center with an objective of getting repolling in Ward No 19 of Bharatpur Metropolitan City.
Let us look at the time when the ballots were torn. They seem to have been torn when 2,200 out of 2,868 votes cast in the ward were counted. Votes remained uncounted only in Ward No 20.
Maoist Center’s mayoral candidate Renu Dahal was trailing UML’s Devi Gyawali by 784 votes when votes in just those two wards remained uncounted. The deficit had been reduced to 733 when 1,800 votes in Ward No 19 were counted. 400 more votes had been counted by Sunday midnight but the results were not announced. Maoist Center, perhaps, realized that the deficit would remain around 700 even when all the votes in Ward No 19 would be counted. The deficit was too big to overcome in Ward No 20. The two local Maoist leaders/cadres, therefore, tore the ballots.
The developments show senior Maoist leaders seem to be closely analyzing vote counting in Baharatpur. They started to conspire when they saw that the results in the very tight race will not come in the party’s favor. All laws have more loopholes than catches. They adopted one of those loopholes—the legal provision that requires reelection if ballots were harmed or captured by anybody before the final results are announced. Maoist leaders/cadres attacked the ballots with the bad intention of getting reelection in Ward No 19 on the basis of that legal provision.
Maoist Center seems to have calculated that it can get reelection in the whole of Ward No 19 as ballots from all the polling centers were mixed before counting.
The Maoist attack on ballots has definitely hurt democracy, but the splash of the attack has smeared its own face. Maoist commitment toward democracy has always been under doubt. It still is. PM Dahal in the last 10 months had done some good things to clear the doubt to some extent. His patient role in holding the local election, that was not possible for 20 years, with participation of even Madhes-based parties enhanced credibility of both Dahal and his party.
That does not mean the Maoists can be completely trusted. Maoist commitment toward democracy can only be established by adding many such ‘10 months’. But we must say the 10-month term of PM Dahal was a firm step toward democracy. The Maoists have once again torn credibility of the party and Dahal by tearing the ballots in Bharatpur. It has again revived the midnight statement the party issued when its shameful defeat in the Second Constituent Assembly looked inevitable. The first condition for commitment toward democracy is acceptance of the people’s mandate. Maoist Center, once again, has failed in the first condition for democracy.
We are very clear about what to do next. The act of attacking democracy by stepping on legal loopholes should not be promoted. The best would be for the Maoist party to correct it itself. PM Dahal can still save his face. He can send a message that he was not pre-informed about the vandalism by his cadres/leaders in Bharatpur by requesting the Election Commission to resume vote counting.
Demand for reelection in Bharatpur 19 from him, like his Chitwan district chapter has done, after revelation of so many facts will establish the estimation that he was also involved in the scam. His credibility will be in crisis for a very long time if such a grave attack on democracy to get his daughter elected were established.
There are not just two parties in the Bharatpur election. The largest party in the country, Nepali Congress (NC), has also forged an alliance with Maoist Center in Bharatpur. Chitwan Congress, organizing a press conference, has demanded reelection in Bharatpur 19. We hope NC has relinquished only the mayoral ticket in Bharatpur to Maoist Center and not its integrity and commitment toward democracy.
NC should also convince its coalition partner and electoral alliance. The Bharatpur scam will cost NC dear if it were not corrected in time. There will be no reasons left for the voters to vote for the parties, that do not respect the people’s mandate, in the second stage of election.
The Election Commission will have the final say in the scam. It has already formed a probe committee. Failure by the Election Commission to discourage the evil attempt to attack on the people’s mandate by stepping on legal loopholes will set a bad precedent, and such acts will be repeated. The Election Commission, therefore, must warn Maoist Center for the offense and resume vote counting soon.