The constitution of Nepal 2015 requires political parties to ensure “such inclusive representation in its executive committees at various levels as may be reflecting the diversity of Nepal”. CPN-UML and its (reelected) Chairman KP Sharma Oli have made a mockery of the provision by selecting a single Madhesi and a couple of women in its new 19-member office-bearers team. Women comprise over half of the national population while the Madhesi-Tharu cluster make up over 33 percent. Yet they are minimally represented. Tharus and Muslims have been completely excluded. This is not the make-up of a national political party.
This panel of office-bearers is unconstitutional and hence liable to legal challenge. More than that, it is indicative of our major political parties’ blatant disregard for inclusion. The situation is not much different in Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center) or the newest kid in the block, CPN (Unified Socialist). Yet even among them, UML fares the worst. The party had a great opportunity to clean up its ‘anti-Madhesi’ and ‘anti-inclusion’ image this time, yet the incumbent chairman decided to give continuity to the status quo by ramrodding his handpicked list of nominees for various party organs.
For long UML has been seen as a status quoist force that owes its rise to the traditionally dominant communities, and its stranglehold over the NGO sector from which it mints money to plough into national elections. There is also little to suggest that the party believes in its stated ideology of ‘people’s multiparty democracy’ which, at its heart, was aimed at reflecting Nepal’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in party hierarchy and programs.
Oli has calculated that he needs a coterie of trusted lieutenants to effectively run the party, so what if most of them share similar ethnic backgrounds? The broader calculation is that pandering to traditionally privileged caste groups, the core UML vote-bank, will again pay off come election-time. In next-door India Narendra Modi has shown the electoral effectiveness of catering almost exclusively to the adherents of one religion. Nepal’s top politicians have likewise chosen to follow their majoritarian instincts, to the detriment of the new federal republic.