Category Archives: nepali-politics

Population and Constituencies: Missing Flip Side of the Coin

On face value the demand for representation based on actual population in each district, as raised by various terai groups including ruling coalition member Nepal Sadbhavana Party, sounds justified. But amidst the heat of a terai in flames the flip side of the coin is being completely missed, and even facts are being distorted.The issue of “under-representation” from the terai should be viewed from three angles:

By Ameet Dhakal
The Kathmandu Post

A. How severe is the case of “under-representation”, and more importantly, whether it is deliberate?
B. The practicality of redrawing the constituencies in proportion to the population
C. Brining a development dimension into the representation issue.

Population is the first criteria, as it should be, in the current demarcation of the constituencies. Representation is not exactly in proportion to the population in the terai districts, but the terai is also not unfairly under-represented. Based on 2001 census- which is the latest one – for every 112,933.77 population there should be one electoral constituency. Let’s us do a reality check in the eastern terai districts, where the agitation is currently concentrated. If constituencies were to be redrawn in proportion to the population, Siraha (where the current conflagration sparked) would have 5.06 constituencies, Saptari 5.02, Sunsari 5.5, Sarlahi 5.6, Dhanusha 5.9 and Morang 7.4. Now let’s look at the number of the current constituencies in these districts. Siraha, Saptari, Sunsari, Sarlahi and Dhanusha have 5 constituencies each and Morang has 7 constituencies. How seriously underrepresented are these districts? Only by a fraction.

Is there a deliberate bias behind under-representing of ethnic Madhesis?

Currently, Kathmandu, Jhapa and Rupandehi are the three most under-represented districts. Based on population, Kathmandu should have 9.5 electoral constituencies and Jhapa and Rupendhei should have 6 each. But Kathmandu has only 7, Jhapa has 5 (after the deletion of one constituency this year) and Rupandehi also 5. Newars are the dominant ethnic group in Kathmandu, while Bahuns as a cast group are dominant in Jhapa and Rupandehi.

Now let’s see the representation issue from the practical point of view. If constituencies are redrawn in proportion to the populations, then five districts in the northern-western strip – Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang and Manag – will have only one electoral constituency since the total population of these five districts is just 138,645. How will a candidate, say from Manang, campaign in Humla? The total area of this single constituency would be 22,898 square kilometers. In terms of geographical size this constituency will be larger than the 14 terai districts (with 71 constituencies) spreading from Jhapa to Dang (i.e., Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu and Dang). These 14 districts together cover only 22,594 square kilometers. One can also compare the difficulty of campaigning in this mammoth constituency with electioneering in a constituency in the terai that a candidate can make two rounds of every day on a bicycle.

The problem with the current dispute on representation is, it’s being argued as if headcount alone matters and geography is irrelevant. But the American experience says otherwise. For instance, the state of California has a population of over 36 million while the tiny northern-eastern state of Vermont has a population of just 623,000. Yet both states send two senators each to the US Senate. The US is not necessarily the best model, and we don’t necessarily have to follow it. But there should be a fair balance between geography and population. That’s why after 1990 the constituencies were redrawn dismantling what used to be either one or two constituencies per district during the Panchaayat era.

Finally, let’s analyze the representation issue from a development perspective.

The argument for fair representation is that under-representation weakens the voice of a region which will have implications in policy formation and resource allocations.

If this argument is true, the representation of backward regions should be increased instead. In other words it makes little sense to increase the representation of districts with high Human Development Index (HDI) such as Kathamndu (HDI, 1), Rupandehi (HDI, 5), Jhapa (HDI, 18) and Kaski (HDI, 3) and reduce the representation of districts with low HDI such as Mugu (HDI, 75), Bajura (73), Kalikot (72), Bajhang (71) and Jajarkot (70).

By agreeing to increase the electoral constituencies in the terai districts in proportion to the rise in their population while keeping the number of constituencies in the hill districts unchanged, the government has tried to strike a balance. It should address the grievances of under-representation of the Madhesi population and also the representation needs of the sparsely populated hill districts.

Ameet Dhakal is the news editor of the Kathmandu Post.

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Nepali Congress Go For Change

By Prakash Bom in New York

Change with the changing time: ‘Everyone must change with the changing time.’ This is the statement of the Prime Minister and the president of Nepali Congress [the party’s name should be Nepali Congress (Traditional) for its policies] prior to the signing of the peace accord agreements. There are few prominent party cadres behind Girija Prasad Koirala who are against the current of the changing time. On the other hand, the youth leaders of Nepali Congress (T) are demanding the abolition of monarchy and establishment of Democratic Republic.

The recent meeting of the Nepali Congress (Democratic)’s district committee presidents recommended the party to go for a federal republic order. General Convention of Nepali Congress (D) is expected to endorse it. How long would it take to Nepali Congress (T) leadership to understand the demand of the changing times? How about following the path of Nepali Congress (D) or as per one of the NC central working committee members Narahari Acharya’s call for the General Convention of the party to democratically process the changing time? Continue reading Nepali Congress Go For Change

Nepal Politics: King in a Jatra and Other Protests

Black Flag for King Gyanendra

A Flag for a King: Gyanendra Shah must have seen this black flag today while heading for Indra Jatra ceremony in Basantapur, downtown Kathmandu. He should understand the volatile situation of the country and stop wasting time by attending religious ceremonies as King. Pic by Bikash Karki via Kantipur

What’s going on in Kathmandu? Encouraging news comes from the Parliament’s State Affairs Commettee (SAC) that decides to keep king out of the decision making process of the state of Nepal. According to Pradeep Nepal, a CPN UML affilated MP, said that the Gyanendra has become a ‘civilian king’. That might be a comment in hurry but this is indeed a good step to cut the wings of a king who can turn into an autocratic monster at any time. This decision is in line with the popular Nepali belief that monarchy in Nepal is totally irrelivant and the white elephant must be made accountable to the soverign people before chasing it away from society and putting it in the safety box (i.e, the histroy of Nepal). Continue reading Nepal Politics: King in a Jatra and Other Protests