Out of 6,743 seats allocated for Dalit women in the upcoming local-level elections, candidacy was filed for only 6,573 seats.
Surya Prasad Aryal, joint spokesperson at the Election Commission says, 170 seats are vacant.
Seats for local representatives going unclaimed is strange considering the constant tussle to secure an election ticket for even the post of a local unit ward member. In some places there were even reports of aspiring political party candidates paying hefty sums for such candidacy.
Shashikala Dahal, former vice-chairperson of the National Assembly, suspects the 170 Dalit women seats were not claimed because some local level wards didn’t have Dalits in their midst.
“Perhaps it was also due to the fact that a large number of Dalit people don’t know that they can file their candidacy,” she adds.
A similar incident had occurred during the 2017 elections when 173 ward-member seats for Dalit women got no claimants.
Writer Ramrijhan Yadav says women generally have little space in Nepali politics.
“One can only imagine the state of Dalit women, the majority of whom are illiterate and don’t know about their rights,” he says.
He adds that the onus lies on the political parties to raise awareness among their Dalit supporters and also pick the candidates.
“Political parties head to villages in search of Dalit representatives only on the day the Election Commission calls for the list of candidates,” he adds.
Santa Pariyar, a Dalit rights activist, says the country’s constitution has guaranteed the rights and representation of the Dalits, but most of them don’t know about this.
“They toil all day just to get by. It is the political parties that should be organizing the disadvantaged Dalit people and making them aware of their constitutional rights,” he says.
Madhes-based political analyst Chandra Kishore says many Dalit women have been disenfranchised as they still don’t have citizenship.
“How can you vote, let alone contest an election, when you don’t even have citizenship documents? The political parties created reservation seats for Dalit women, but they never bothered to educate them on their political rights,” he says.