Not Present- Dalit leaders must unite to ensure adequate representation in the CA

NOV 08 –

In the 2008 Constituent Assembly, 50 out of 601 members were from the Dalit community. Seven candidates won their seats through the first-past-the-post system while 43 were selected from the proportional representation (PR) candidate lists of different parties. Though Dalits only comprised 8.32 percent of the Assembly, their participation was a huge departure from the past where the representation of Dalits in politics had been minimal. Among the major parties, the then CPN (Maoist) fielded 18 Dalit candidates, among whom seven won the elections. This time around, there has been a significant decrease in the number of Dalits fielded in direct elections. While the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-UML has fielded nine and six Dalit candidates respectively, the Nepali Congress has none. Major parties apart, the Madhesi parties have fielded Dalit candidates in hill districts where they have little influence. For instance, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal has fielded Dalits in Lalitpur, Kaski, Surkhet while the Sadbhawna Party (Mahato) has fielded a Dalit candidate in Kaski.

Furthermore, the Ordinance on the Election of CA Members, does not require parties with less than 100 candidates (30 percent) on their PR lists to ensure the representation of Dalits, women and other marginalised communities. A hundred and fourteen parties, thus, will not need to meet the inclusion criteria. Given that 122 political parties are contesting the polls—unlike in 2008 wherein there were only 54 parties—the number of votes will be divided among the parties, most of which do not need to ensure inclusion. This means that political parties must utilise the option to nominate 26 members to the CA to ensure adequate representation of Dalits, who constitute 13 percent of Nepal’s population but fare the worst in terms of income, education and other development indicators. Doing so will be a step towards fulfilling the objective of the proportional system which is to bring people at the margins to the centre where they can take part in decision-making.

All efforts, therefore, must be focused on maintaining the unprecedented representation of Dalits in the previous CA. For that to happen, members of political parties and rights activists must coordinate among themselves and put pressure on top leaders to take the issue of Dalit representation seriously. For the discourse to go beyond mere tokenism, leaders from the Dalit community, across parties, must come together to press their respective leaderships to build an inclusive party structure. There is also a dire need for a strong political organisation of Dalits that can effectively mobilise community members and generate enough clout to ensure that their voices are heard. Ensuring the presence of Dalits in politics is crucial to encouraging their participation and representation in other sectors too.

Posted on: 2013-11-08 08:45
Source: The Kathmandu Post (ekantipur) Editorial

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