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Opinion makers in the Kathmandu Press: September 7, 2017

Op-ed pages of broadsheet dailies published in Kathmandu on Thursday have given space to a host of issues such as the third round of elections in Province 2 and the implementation of the new constitution. While Indo-Nepal relations continues to be a burning issue for op-ed writers, the new electoral laws passed by Parliament have also received attention.

On local elections

Political parties in Province 2 are preparing for the local elections on September 18. They filed their nominations on Wednesday and candidates are busy canvassing for their campaign. In this context, Chandra Kishore, in his piece for Kantipur, says the elections are important as it helps establish the democratic system of governance envisaged by the new constitution, at the local level. He says that democracy needs to grow from the roots. Kishore says the elections not only decide the fate of the political parties, but also that of democracy.

Kishore says the questions Madheshis are asking these days is why haven’t their representatives addressed the economic, social and political complexities of Madhesh. Why haven’t projects such as the postal highway, and Sunkoshi diversion taken off? He says that political parties should now strive towards reaching the roots of Madhesh to connect them to the constitution and the state. He says that although the country has adopted a federal structure, empowerment of local governments will be crucial for Madhesh.

Whither the ‘no vote’

Vote counting is underway in Taplejung district, on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Nepal’s Parliament recently passed electoral laws to regulate the provincial and federal elections slated for November. Although there were calls to give the citizens the right to reject all candidates, lawmakers decided not to include it in the new laws. In this context, Hari Adhikari, in his lead article for Nagarik, says the two election-related bills were passed with lot of difficulties as leaders debated on whether convicted politicians should be allowed to contest elections. Adhikari says Nepali society still follows the feudal norms in which the people are forced to vote for candidates they do not like; they do not have the option to reject all the candidates.

India vs Oli

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli, in New Delhi on February 20, 2016.

Weeks after Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit to New Delhi, commentators in the press continue to dissect Nepal-India relations from various angles. Biswas Baral, in his lead article for Republica, says India wants to keep China-baiting and ‘anti-Madheshi’ KP Oli and his party out of power at any cost. Baral said the UML chief Oli took advantage of the Indian blockade to present his party as the lone defender of Nepali nationalism. Had it not been for the blockade, the nationalist agenda would not have helped him garner this much support. Baral says India needs to drop its policy of isolating the UML as it will not do good to Nepal-India ties, especially if the UML emerges as the biggest party in the elections. He argues that India should rather focus on joint mechanisms to address the flooding and border issues.

Modi’s lessons

Dr Ghanashyam Bhatta, in his piece for Annapurna Post, says Indian Prime Minister Modi has used the caste and religion agenda effectively to garner support for his party. As he prepares for the 2019 elections, he has a lot to show to the electorate. But in Nepal, political parties, which are preparing to contest elections soon, have not established their agenda. They are busy securing alliances rather than working on real issues.

Nepal Idol controversy

Kathmandu’s District Court has ordered a stay on the vote-counting process in the popular reality TV show Nepal Idol after a petition claimed that the organisers did not ‘vote-out’ their ‘favourite contender’ and postponed the ‘vote-out’ process by a week. In this context, Saroj Gautam, in his piece for Annapurna Post, the sister publication of AP 1 tv which broadcasts the show, says the case has raised serious issues over a private company’s rights to earn profit by adhering to the laws of the land and the rules set by an international franchise.

He says that the Idol franchise came to Nepal at a time when Nepali audience were drifting away from domestic channels because they could not get new and exciting content. There were even controversies over the selection of judges. But when the show aired, the audience loved it. It was during the later stages of the show that the racial divide prevalent in Nepal came to fore. He says that the judges’s decision to not ‘eliminate’ anyone on one of the final episodes has been used by people who want to fan racial tensions as they want to give racial colours to everything. The decision was made as per the prescribed format of the show.

The other issue Nepal Idol has raised is that of cultural colonialism. Nepali people have always had to watch international tv shows and local content of international quality has been rare, and the Idol programme is just that.

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